Local Restaurants Rallying Behind Ride Share Drivers

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Restaurant owners on Sunday rallied behind ride share drivers who are caught in the middle of a legal battle over their employment status.         

One restaurant and bar owner said he is relieved Uber and Lyft are safe, for now, but is concerned over the services' future.  

Uber and Lyft officials have threatened to shut down their ride services in California in response to a court ruling that requires drivers to be classified as employees instead of independent contractors. The companies have been fighting the change, which comes as a result of the passage of Assembly Bill 5 that took effect Jan. 1.

By classifying drivers as employees, Lyft and Uber would be responsible for providing them benefits as employees, such as the right to minimum wage, sick leave, unemployment insurance and workers' compensation benefits.

The companies contend in part that classifying the drivers as employees would force them to work standard shifts and hours, instead of their current ability to work when they want.

For now, drivers remained classified as independent contractors. But the ride share companies are expected to file written statements to the court by Tuesday agreeing to expedited procedures for their appeal.

Meanwhile, Billy Ramirez, owner of Fish Shop Restaurant, is hoping a fair agreement is made -- for everyone’s sake. 

“I think it’s a trickle-down effect that people just aren’t seeing,” Ramirez said.

The future for ride share companies is unclear and it’s not sitting well with Ramirez.

He owns several restaurants in San Diego, including Fish Shop in Point Loma.

"Not only is that bringing our customers here safely and getting them home safely, but also, a lot of young staff use Uber and Lyft to get back and forth to work,” Ramirez said.

Lyft and Uber were spared Thursday after a California appeals court granted the rideshare companies more time to comply with AB 5 designed to reclassify drivers as employees instead of independent contractors and grant benefits.

Ramirez is also concerned over food delivery services at a time when take-out is in high demand.

Before the appeals court ruling an Uber official told Eater it planned to continue operating Uber Eats even if the company has to put a pause on the ride-hailing service.

And Ramirez hopes that remains true.

“We’re just not sure how they’re going to keep that part of their service alive,” he said.

Uber and Lyft are also working to combat AB5 by sponsoring Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that, if approved by voters in November, would allow ride-hailing drivers to work as independent contractors.

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