NYC Councilman to Introduce Bill Against Cashless Eateries

Councilmember Ritchie Torres labels the policy racist and classist.

November 30, 2018

NEW YORK CITY – New York City Councilmember Ritchie Torres wants to forbid retailers and restaurants from not accepting cash, reports. The bill will require any local business to pay a fine if it won’t accept coins and bills as payment.

“I started coming across coffee shops and cafés that were exclusively cashless and I thought: But what if I was a low-income New Yorker who has no access to a card?” Torres said. “I thought about it more and realized that even if a policy seems neutral in theory, it can be racially exclusionary in practice. Therein lies the problem with card-only policies. I see it as a way to gentrify the marketplace.”

He views a cashless model as classist and racist because such a policy would exclude anyone without a smartphone, bank account or credit card. “If you’re intent on a cashless business model, it will have the effect of excluding lower-income communities of color from what should be an open and free market,” he said.

As Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Melissa McCart put it in a report on cashless restaurants several months ago: “[I]n an era when an increasing number of restaurants no longer accept legal tender, it’s useful to think about who this system benefits most: the businesses and banks, at the expense of consumers.”

New York City isn’t the only metro area concerned about the growing number of cashless restaurants. This summer, a councilmember in Washington, D.C., sponsored a similar measure. In Chicago, the city failed to approve a ban on cashless restaurants 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.