Protests Against Cashless Restaurants Grow

As the number of restaurants that eschew cash increases in Washington, D.C., city council members introduce a bill to make retailers accept cash.

July 11, 2018

WASHINGTON – As more restaurants go cashless, a backlash is building, especially in the nation’s capital, where an increasing number of fast-casual eateries are only accepting credit or debit cards and mobile payments, the Washington Post reports. Sweetgreen, a national chain, doesn’t accept cash at most locations, including its Washington, D.C., unit, while Menchie’s, Barcelona Wine Bar, The Bruery, Jetties and Surfside in the District also refuse cash payments.

“By denying the ability to use cash as a payment, businesses are effectively telling lower income and younger patrons that they are not welcome,” said D.C. Council member David Grosso, who has introduced a bill that would require retailers to let customers pay in cash. Chicago didn’t pass a similar bill last year, and Massachusetts has a 1978 law on the books that’s for cash payments but it hasn’t been enforced regularly, according to the state retailers association.

For Surfside’s owner Bo Blair, not accepting cash has meant no armored vehicles for transporting money to the bank, no chance of employees stealing from the cash drawer, no robberies and no extra work for employees to reconcile cash receipts each evening. “Not having to worry about employees stealing or getting robbed is a huge lift off our minds,” said Blair.

Other retailers realize that “not everybody is able to buy a smartphone. Not everybody is in a position where they can get a credit card. Not everybody is even in a position where they have a stable bank account to be able to use the debit card. But they are hungry too, and have $10 in their pockets and they would like to spend their legal American form of tender, known as cash, with you,” said Arianne Bennett, who owns Amsterdam Falafelshop. “As society and technology evolves, we must ask ourselves always, not just ‘can we’? But ‘should we’?”

Starbucks has been testing a cashless store in Seattle, while Amazon Go announced it would be opening a second Seattle location of its cashier-less store. A recent study found that Canadians still prefer cash, especially at convenience stores, while many millennials also like to pay with dollars over credit or debit cards.