Barcelona has become the latest European city to clamp down on dark stores.
Last week, PYMNTS reported that the city’s council approved a total ban on the urban distribution hubs that quick commerce firms use to achieve their rapid delivery times.
But the Spanish municipality isn’t the first European city to crack down on such micro fulfillment centers.
In fact, since a pandemic-fueled boom in q-commerce caused the proliferation of dark stores across the continent, tensions between local authorities and delivery firms have been simmering.
City councilors in Amsterdam and Rotterdam were the first to make the news for their hardline approach when they placed a year-long freeze on the opening of any new dark stores in January and February last year, respectively.
In a statement on the moratorium, Rotterdam City Councilor Roos Vermeij summarized their objections saying, “Everyone is now familiar with it: taped windows, bicycles that block the flow of traffic in a shopping street, noise during deliveries, reckless cycling behavior and nuisance from waiting bikers.”
As local authorities look for a solution that restricts the more disruptive aspects of dark stores without completely killing the businesses that rely on them, they have been reassessing how they categorize different types of commercial facilities.
After all, most cities already have zoning rules in place that restrict what kind of activities businesses can carry out in certain areas. This is how town planners encourage the development of retail neighborhoods and out-of-town industrial parks, for example.
The definition of dark stores as shops rather than distribution centers has also been contested in France. In September of last year, the government said it intended to reclassify dark stores as warehouses, giving authorities more scope to force them out of city centers, where warehouses are typically not allowed.
Within weeks of the announcement, Le Monde reported that quick commerce startup Flink had received letters from the city council in Paris informing the company that two centrally located dark stores breached planning rules.
That same month, Emmanuel Grégoire, first deputy to the mayor of Paris, revealed during a press conference on the city hall’s enforcement action that firms operating dark stores in residential areas would be subject to fines of 200 euros (about $218) per day for each unauthorized location.
He further asserted that 80% of the roughly 150 dark stores in the city were illegal once classified as warehouses, adding that the city had launched legal action against 47 of them.
But the fact that other players like Frichti and Gorillas successfully contested their fines in court last October, as per a Bloomberg report, sets a precedent that, for now, q-commerce micro warehouses are staying put.