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Cashless Restaurants in D.C. Are in Danger

A new bill would bar local restaurants from refusing traditional currency

The rapidly expanding Sweetgreen chain does not accept cash.
Sweetgreen [Official photo]
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Local leaders want to put a halt to restaurants that don’t accept cash, drawing up a legislative fix that could cost the growing number of credit-only eateries big bucks.

A new bill introduced by D.C. City Council member David Grosso on June 26 would “prevent discrimination against customers who prefer to use cash or do not have access to credit cards or other payment methods.” Washington City Paper first reported on the proposed change that would affect how cashless operators including Sweetgreen, Jetties, Jrink, and Barcelona Wine Bar currently conduct their businesses. Last year, WCP did a deep dive into the pros and cons of the cashless movement. Sweetgreen was the first local pioneer to implement a cashless system in March 2017, eventually banning bills at all nationwide locations.

If passed, establishments wouldn’t be able to discriminate against cash; post signs on the licensed premises that cash payment is not accepted; or charge different prices to customers depending on their payment method, according to the “Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018.”

Grosso claims 10 percent of D.C. residents are unbanked, and 25 percent are underbanked and may not have access to a 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,” he writes.

Proponents of a cashless system say it helps prevent break-ins and encourages operational efficiencies across multiple locations. D.C. Council chairman Phil Mendelson and councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White co-introduced the new bill.