Food and Beverage Industry Delivery Facility Zoning Updates

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The trend of delivering meals, groceries and liquor is pervasive in the food and beverage retail industry, prompted by pandemic-related shutdowns and security concerns. While companies struggle to respond quickly to customer demands, municipalities have been slower to adapt to changing business models. This presents many challenges, especially with respect to land use and zoning compliance. While many municipalities have embraced food delivery from existing restaurants, they have been slower to allow third-party delivery services for food, alcohol, groceries, or even cannabis (where the laws of state permit). Municipalities have not been quick to host “dark stores” or “ghost kitchens” for the sole purpose of preparing food for delivery. However, the demand for fast delivery services requires such “delivery facilities”.

When it comes to delivery facilities, the old adage “location, location, location” applies more than ever. However, when municipalities consider these facilities to be “warehouses” and push them to manufacturing zoned districts, it can easily add 10-15 minutes to each delivery time. Conversely, delivery facilities located in commercial districts struggle to comply with parking design and construction requirements for customers who will never enter the premises.

Although municipalities are eager to welcome new businesses, they are reluctant to risk a proliferation of non-pedestrian storefronts. As such, working with stakeholders to draft amendments to municipal codes is both legislative and political, and having the right team will make all the difference.

© 2022 Foley & Lardner LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 158

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