New D.C. bill aims to make ‘cashless’ restaurants illegal

Restaurants are increasingly less likely to accept paper currency, a trend that likely protects businesses from theft but also makes it harder for low-income people to shop.


The fish tacos at Surfside, a 24-hour Mexican restaurant in Washington D.C., sell for $12.50. But don’t plan on trading a ten and some change for the meal: the restaurant is one of many in the city that no longer accepts cash.

It’s a growing trend in an era defined by mobile payments, online retail, and Bitcoin. The supporters say going cashless speeds up transactions and protects businesses from theft. But others say it discriminates against the many Americans who don’t have reliable access to a credit or debit card.

Now, a new bill called the Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018 seeks to make it illegal for restaurants and retailers not to accept cash or to charge different prices to customers depending on the type of payment.

Banning the use of cash is a discriminatory practice that disproportionately impacts the 10% of DC residents who are unbanked, and an additional 25% of residents who are underbanked and may not have access to a credit card,” wrote Councilmember David Grosso.

“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.

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.”


Mobile payment--Wikipedia commons

Still, the mandate could prove to be a headache for some businesses, like D.C.-based juice company JRINK.

“When we had one location in Dupont it was easier to deposit cash, which was right across the street at Eagle Bank,” JRINK CEO Shizu Okusa told the Washington City Paper. “But then the company grew... 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.”

Okusa said the company would have to update its business model if the bill passes.

“We'd have to have new protocols, new equipment, and new staff training.”

Many cashless stores in D.C. cater to a wealthy clientele. But for other businesses around the country, going cashless is a safety precaution. Chicago-based chain Epic Burger, for instance, decided to experiment with a cashless model at one of its stores after being hit by six break-ins, burglaries and robberies over eight years.

“It has generated the most negative pushback of anything we've ever done,” found David Friedman told USA Today, adding that he’s now implemented a cashless policy at all of his stores. “I made the decision to put my customers' and my employees' safety as my No. 1 priority.”

According to police data, there were 165 burglaries and robberies in D.C. restaurants in 2016. One D.C. resident summed up the bill, which has yet to be voted on, like this:

“I can see both sides...Businesses should be able to choose what they want to do with their business and what sort of money they want to transact with. But at the same time, cash is still currency. So to say that is not a valued way to pay for something would be kind of frustrating.”

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Where do atoms come from? Billions of years of cosmic fireworks.

The periodic table was a lot simpler at the beginning of the universe.

Active ingredient in Roundup found in 95% of studied beers and wines

The controversial herbicide is everywhere, apparently.

(MsMaria/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers and wines, including organics, and found Roundup's active ingredient in almost all of them.
  • A jury on August 2018 awarded a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma victim $289 million in Roundup damages.
  • Bayer/Monsanto says Roundup is totally safe. Others disagree.
Keep reading Show less

An organism found in dirt may lead to an anxiety vaccine, say scientists

Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.

University of Colorado Boulder
Surprising Science
  • New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
  • Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
  • The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.

Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.

The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.

The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.

Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.

"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."

University of Colorado Boulder

Christopher Lowry

This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.

Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.

The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.

Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.

What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.

"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."

Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.