DCist: D.C. Councilmember Wants To Do Away With Cashless Restaurants

DCist, June 26, 2018: D.C. Councilmember Wants To Do Away With Cashless Restaurants

At-large Councilmember David Grosso argues that refusing to accept cash is tantamount to discrimination against people experiencing poverty, youth, and others who may not have access to a debit or credit card.

“By denying patrons the ability to use cash as a form of payment, businesses are effectively telling lower-income and young patrons that they are not welcome,” Grosso said in a press release announcing legislation that would ban the practice at restaurants, bars, and other retail food establishments. “Practices like this further stratify our diverse city when we should be working to foster greater inclusion.”

Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White co-sponsored the bill. Should it become law, it would also bar restaurants from charging different prices for using a credit card rather than bills or coins.

A number of fast casual restaurants in the District have stopped accepting cash, either to speed up operations, act as a theft deterrent, or both. Sweetgreen, the salad chain that has mushroomed across the country, is one of the most prominent businesses to have done so.

“One of the biggest complaints at Sweetgreen is the line, so by reducing cash we’re able to serve customers a lot faster,” co-founder Jonathan Neman told the New York Times after beginning to experiment with going cashless at some shops in 2016. The company stopped accepting cash at all of its stores the following year, and it says the move hasn’t affected their bottom line. Sweetgreen declined to comment on Grosso’s legislation.

It is not the only food establishment in the District to either go cashless or consider the option.

Not accepting cash “means effectively that you’re not equally serving all people, and that has an impact in terms of race, income, and age,” says Jesse Van Tol, the CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. “Aside from a disproportionate impact on low income and younger people, immigrants are also less likely to have a credit card and more likely to use cash.”

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