Waitr’s reclassification of drivers turns alcohol-delivery law essentially moot

    After Waitr executives pushed for the Louisiana Legislature to open the door for alcohol delivery in the state last year, the company’s decision to reclassify its workers as independent contractors essentially makes the law moot. 

    Waitr’s WARN notice was posted with the Louisiana Workforce Commission yesterday afternoon, announcing the company was laying off its entire 2,300 driving fleet. Those laid off employees are being given the option, however, to return to work immediately as independent contractors with the company, which could mean more cash in the pockets of drivers. 

    But that classification as an independent contractor would mean that per Louisiana law, drivers would not be allowed to deliver alcohol, a service Waitr had pushed for several years to offer. 

    In 2017, founder and then-CEO Chris Meaux told Daily Report the company had already developed the technology needed to add alcohol delivery to its app and was just waiting on the green light from regulators. 

    “Everything is built and ready to go,” he said at the time. “Now we’re trying to work with the regulating authorities … so we can do it legally.”

    Fast forward to last summer, when state legislators and Gov. John Bel Edwards OK’d two pieces of legislation that would allow third-party delivery services to deliver alcohol, but only through W-2 employees who had their servers license. That nuance put Waitr in a “unique position” to take advantage of the opportunity, as other popular third-party food delivery services utilize independent contractors for deliveries. 

    Finally with legislative approval, Meaux announced in July the company would soon roll out alcohol deliveries “in the next several weeks,” touting the legislation signed by Edwards the month prior. But that never happened.

    According to spokesman Dean Turcol, Waitr never rolled out the service, though it’s unclear why. And exactly one month after making the announcement, Meaux resigned from his CEO role with the company.

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