LA considers ban on cashless businesses because they exclude low-income people, people of color, and seniors

A woman counting money.
A woman counting money.Catherine McQueen/Getty Images
  • Los Angeles could join other cities and states in banning cashless businesses.

  • Some shops in LA have turned to credit or digital payments only, citing theft concerns.

  • A councilwoman wants to ban the practice, something San Francisco and New York City have already done.

A Los Angeles city official wants to ban cashless businesses in the area, arguing they exclude low-income people and others who don't carry credit cards.

"Cashless businesses create an economy in our City that is not inclusive and accessible for all people," Councilwoman Heather Hutt said in a press release introducing a motion on the topic. "There are many unbanked groups, including BIPOC and low-income communities, that rely on cash to pay for goods and services."

It comes as more businesses in the area are opting for cashless payments like credit cards or digital payments through apps. Those options, businesses say, make the purchasing process more efficient and safe, the Los Angeles Times reported.

For example, a salad bar chain beloved and advertised by the Kardashian family recently turned cashless at its multiple LA locations, citing a rise in theft in the city, the Daily Mail reported.

Hutt argues that such measures are discriminatory. Her motion calls for the City Attorney to draft an ordinance prohibiting cashless businesses.

"As a City that has promised to be a safe and fair place for all, we must be proactive in ensuring that all our systems create fairness and equity for each and every individual," Hutt said in the press release.

Los Angeles would not be the first jurisdiction to face such a call. Several major cities, such as New York and Philadelphia, have done the same, as have a handful of states, the Times reported.

San Francisco enacted a cashless ban in 2019, something city officials doubled down on during the COVID-19 pandemic when some businesses tried to deny cash for health reasons.

"This is about equity. Not everybody has a credit card or an ATM card, and people need essential services," San Francisco Police Department Chief Bill Scott said in May 2020, Eater SF reported.

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