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Cashless Restaurants in NYC Will Officially Be Banned This Year

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The City Council is set to pass a bill requiring all restaurants and food stores to accept cash payments from its customers

A check for food sits on a marble table at a restaurant with a sign in the back that reads cashless establishment
Restaurants and food stores can no longer turn away customers paying by cash
Jenny G. Zhang/Eater

NYC restaurants and stores not accepting cash will soon be a thing of the past. The New York City Council is finally set to pass a bill later today that will prohibit all city businesses from refusing cash payments from its customers.

This means restaurant chains like Dos Toros, By Chloe, and several Union Square Hospitality Group establishments like Daily Provisions at Union Square, and Caffe Marchio — which have only been accepting electronic forms of payment for the past few years — will now have to let customers pay in cash. Eater has reached out to these restaurants for comment.

NYC businesses that go cashless “effectively discriminate against customers who lack access to credit and debit,” says City Council member Ritchie Torres, the lead sponsor of the cashless ban bill, in a statement to Eater. In NYC, most of the nearly 12 percent of the population that does not have a bank account are people of color, according to a 2017 federal report.

While the bill is set to receive the City’s Council approval today, it won’t actually go into effect for another nine months. The final version of the bill has also alleviated some of the concerns smaller businesses had about receiving large bills.

For instance, restaurants and stores won’t be required to accept bills larger than $20. Establishments that refuse to follow the law will be fined up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $1,500 for each subsequent violation.

Under the new law, restaurants or food stores can also offer customers the option to use a machine that will convert their cash and transfer it onto a store card — but this card cannot have a minimum requirement more than $1 or a fee to purchase the card. What’s more, stores can’t set an expiration date on card and can’t limit the number of transactions as long as there’s cash on the card.

The law excludes purchases made online, by phone or by mail — stores can still choose electronic-only payments for those transactions.

Torres first introduced the cashless ban bill in November 2018, and told Grub Street at the time that “on the surface, cashlessness seems benign, but when you reflect on it, the insidious racism that underlies a cashless business model becomes clear.” Many of his colleagues on the City Council quickly got on board and the bill now has more than 20 co-sponsors.

Fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Dos Toros pushed back at public hearings about the bill last year. They argued that the cashless model kept the restaurants and the employees safe and prevented robberies. Torres immediately hit back at one of the public meetings pointing out that businesses in far tougher neighborhoods than where these chains are located — such as the restaurants along Arthur Avenue in the Bronx — had survived and operated safely while still accepting cash from their customers.

Last year, Philadelphia became the first city in the United States to implement a cashless ban. The state of New Jersey quickly followed suit, and San Francisco also implemented the ban last summer. It’s now under consideration in several other big cities, including Washington D.C.