NYC moves to crack down on fast delivery apps’ ‘dark stores’

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Mayor Eric Adams is moving to crack down on the proliferation of warehouse-like spaces that grocery delivery apps have created inside former Big Apple storefronts – ordering them to allow customers to shop there or move to the outskirts of the city, The Post has learned.

Critics including City Council members Gale Brewer and Christopher Marte have argued that storefronts operated by apps like Gopuff and Gorillas violate zoning laws because they operate mostly as warehouses and should therefore move out of neighborhoods zoned for retail use.

In response, some of the stores recently began allowing walk-in customers in an ad-hoc manner. 

This week, the Department of Buildings issued more specific guidance on how the storefronts can continue to do business, saying they must allow shoppers to enter, pick up items or place an order — without requiring them to first download an app.

Businesses that don’t allow shoppers to enter the store and to purchase goods on the spot would be relegated to areas of the city zoned for manufacturing, a DOB spokesperson told The Post.

New York City is issuing new rules that will regulate where these businesses can operate.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The DOB likewise took aim at practices that have led to the nickname “dark stores” because passersby can’t see inside the spaces. The agency said any storefront windows that are obscured by “more than 50% with posters, paper, vinyl tint, and other opaque materials may result in DOB violations.”

At one point there were more than 100 of locations in the city, but in recent months a number have folded, including Russian-backed Buyk and Fridge No More.

“The Adams administration is committed to fostering innovation and protecting quality of life as part of a robust and inclusive economic recovery for our city, and we expect the final version of this technical analysis will do just that,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said in a statement.

A Gopuff worker sitting on the floor in a store surrounded by  merchandise.
Gopuff is among the grocery delivery apps that have set up shop in the Big Apple.
Courtesy of @gopuff

“We are still in the midst of this process, and we look forward to continued engagement with elected officials, advocates, and community partners to ensure we get this right,” the spokesperson added.

The proposed rules will be open for public comment until May 20.

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