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Philadelphia outlaws cashless restaurants

Photograph: Shutterstock

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has signed a bill making his city the first in the nation to require local restaurants and other businesses to accept cash if a customer chooses that form of payment, starting July 1.

The new law runs contrary to the trend within the restaurant business of accepting only electronic payments or credit cards to speed service. At least some units of Sweetgreen, Bluestone Lane, Dig Inn,  Dos Toros, Shake Shack, Blue Bottle and Firehouse Subs, among many others, now decline to accept cash, noting that passing money and change back and forth eats up precious seconds during peak hours of service. A secondary benefit, they say, is lessening the risk of being robbed since no cash is on hand.

A measure similar to what passed in Philadelphia is under consideration in New York City, and a variation has been passed by New Jersey’s legislature but not yet signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy. Massachusetts has long had a prohibition on its books against establishments refusing to accept cash. 

Proponents of the ban on cashless enterprises argue that not all consumers can afford a credit card, smartphone or payment tag. They point out that 26% of Philadelphia residents live below the federal poverty line. 

The Philadelphia law also prohibits establishments from charging customers more if they pay in cash, and from posting signs that indicate cash will not be accepted.



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