More and more Washington, D.C., restaurants are opting for a cashless policy, but a recently introduced bill hopes to quash what it calls a “discriminatory” practice.
Cash seems to be a dying breed in our society. With an increasing number of ways to pay for services without cash, such as credit cards, Venmo, and Apple Pay, many consumers are moving away from the traditional hard cash. Washington, D.C., restaurants have been starting to change their practices to go along with the trend, but a new bill hopes to make cashless restaurants illegal.
D.C. Councilmember David Grosso (At-large, Independent), along with five co-sponsors, introduced the Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018 on June 26. According to a press release, the aim of the bill is “to require retail food establishments to accept cash; to prevent discrimination against customers who prefer to use cash or do not have access to credit cards or other payment methods; and to provide for enforcement of this requirement.”
Grosso explained that cashless restaurants can disproportionately affect certain customers:
“Banning the use of cash is a discriminatory practice that disproportionately impacts the 10 percent of D.C. residents who are unbanked, and an additional 25 percent of residents who are underbanked and may not have access to a credit card. In addition, this practice is discriminatory against youth, who are often unable to obtain a credit card, impacting many of our middle school and high school students.”
Grosso continues, “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.”
Sadly, access to a bank account is still an obstacle for many people. According to the 2015 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation National Survey, nine million Americans do not have a bank. Factors that can affect whether or not a person has a bank account include income, race, and immigration status. For people without a bank account, cash may be the only way they can pay for goods and services.
Lack of a bank account is also not the only reason some customers prefer to pay with cash. Some people pay with cash to help them better budget their spending, and using cash can help prevent identity theft.
On the other hand, restaurants claim cashless payment systems help them serve customers faster, ensure safety, and make operations and accounting easier. JRINK, a local juice company in Washington, D.C, and Virginia, told the Washington City Paper that the company opted for a cashless system because it made operations easier.
Co-founder and CEO Shizu Okusa said, “When we had one location in Dupont it was easier to deposit cash, which was right across the street at Eagle Bank. At some of our locations, including one in Clarendon, it’s really hard for businesses to keep track of all of the cash that’s laying around. If you think about providing more access to your products in multiple locations, we want to balance with operational feasibility."
Restaurants also point to concerns of being robbed with cash inside the business. Some would argue that some of these obstacles, such as cash-handling, come in line with owning a business, and customers should not be discriminated against as a result.
JRINK is not the only cashless business in Washington, D.C. Others, such as Sweetgreen, Barcelona Wine Bar on 14th, and Surfside have also implemented cashless policies.
For now, the fate of paying for food in Washington, D.C., is unknown. The bill is currently awaiting a vote.
What do you think? Do you support cashless restaurants? Think they are discriminatory? Let us know in the comments below!