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NY Post: Not everyone is happy that restaurants are going cashless

By Lisa Fickensher, April 24

Cash is no longer king.

A growing number of restaurants across the country — like test locations for Starbucks and Shake Shack and the entire Sweetgreen, Dos Toros and Tender Greens chains — are no longer accepting cash.

It’s all plastic all the time.

The stores believe not dealing with cash helps move the line of customers faster.

Most people pay for their meals with a credit card anyway, the chains argue. Plus, counting the cash at the end of the day is a waste of time.

But the war on cash has sparked a backlash.

State lawmakers, a civil rights group, the National Retail Federation and a company servicing ATMs are all pushing back against the trend, claiming that refusing the greenback — on which the US Treasury writes “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private” — is simply un-American.

“I think Americans ought to have a right to pay with cash,” New York state Assemblyman Richard Gottfried told The Post. The Manhattan lawmaker circulated a memo on Tuesday to his colleagues proposing legislation requiring New York businesses to accept cash.

“It makes sense to put a halt to this before it becomes too common and too hard to stop,” he said.

There is no federal law addressing the issue.

In Chicago last year, two city aldermen introduced a bill similar to Gottfried’s. “A ‘no cash’ sign is a ‘not welcome’ sign for many without ready access to credit,” the proposed Chicago ordinance reads. The bill is still pending before the City Council there.

In Massachusetts, a similar bill was enacted into law years ago. The Bay State is the first — and only — state to bar cashless businesses.

Naturally, credit card companies, including Visa and Mastercard, are the biggest cheerleaders of the cashless movement. Last month, Visa paid 50 small businesses $10,000 each for creating a video about what being cash-free would mean for their businesses.

One of the recipients, upscale pizzeria owner Simone Falco of Rossopomodoro in Greenwich Village, is opening a nearby quick-service pizzeria this month that will not accept cash.

“The idea to start cashless in a new restaurant felt safer than doing it in an existing restaurant,” Falco said. If the cashless system works at his new place, Simò Pizza, cash will go bye-bye at Rossopomodoro as well, he said.

The NRF believes that credit card issuers, in an attempt to collect more fee income, are fueling the cashless trend. Plastic transactions cost merchants 2 percent to 3 percent of a purchase.

Social justice groups are concerned that people of color and low-income consumers will be the collateral damage in a cashless society.

“Moving quickly away from cash and toward plastic transactions, you leave communities behind — you leave people behind,” said Cy Richardson, senior vice president for economics and housing programs for the National Urban League.

Not all restaurateurs are even sold on the idea.

“Turning someone away because they wanted to pay in cash is disappointing someone who wanted to eat in our place, and it feels a little elitist to not accept cash,” hamburger joint owner Andrew Schnipper told The Post.

What’s more, adds Zane Tankel, chief executive of Apple-Metro, which owns more than 30 Applebee’s Grill & Bars in the New York metro area, “We are a service establishment, and that’s not giving service if someone wants to pay with cash and I say ‘no.’ ”