Cashless Business Ban Bill Delayed But Not Dead


Call it the missing in action legislation.

The measure that prohibits food and retail establishments from refusing to accept cash from consumers that was suddenly yanked from being voted on in August was not on the agenda for a city council vote again at last week’s stated meeting.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson

But both the offices of City Council Member Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) denied that the bill is dead in the water .

“The bill is not dead and it is not stalled. It will be passed either at the next stated meeting this month [Sept. 25] or the first one next month [Oct. 17],” said Torres spokesperson Raymond Rodriguez. “The councilman wanted more to hear from different people and to get it done well rather than passing it hastily.”

The bill as written “prohibits food and retail establishments from refusing to accept cash from consumers,” and also prohibits businesses from setting higher prices for consumers who use cash. It came in response to a slowly developing niche of businesses, predominantly fast-casual restaurants like Shake Shack and coffee shops, opting to only accept bank-issued cards or electronic payments rather than cash.

Torres and his co-sponsor, Council Member Rafael Espinal (D-Bushwick, East New York, Cypress Hills) have expressed a belief that cashless businesses are exclusionary and discriminatory against the poor as well as people of color, who are more likely to not have a bank account or be ‘underbanked,’ which describes consumers who have a bank account but rely more often on cash and other payment forms.

When it was pulled there was some speculation that perhaps some high-end retail or restaurant chains/coffee shops were behind it, but KCP calls around did not substantiate this speculation.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said the organization didn’t testify on the measure nor did they ask the Speaker’s office to pull the bill.

“We didn’t take a position because only a small percentage of our members have gone cashless and we’ve heard from some members who support the ban, and we believe restaurants should be accessible to people with, or without a credit card,” said Rigie.

Rigie did say some members of the organization are exploring a device, where patrons enter cash and/or coin and it would dispense a card that would be used like a credit card. The device could give change too,  Rigie said.

A city council spokesperson also quelled any rumors they legislation is dead in the water.

“This bill is important to the Speaker and is going through the legislative process. Any suggestion otherwise is untrue. We are working to make sure that all New Yorkers can participate in our economy,” said the spokesperson.