Only one council member objected as Evanston alders Monday night introduced an ordinance to force retail merchants to accept cash for any purchase.

The ordinance was introduced by Ald. Devon Reid (8th), who said he had once been unable to make a purchase at a cashless store when he entered with only cash in his pocket.

Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) asked Reid how many businesses in town are cashless. Reid said a few are but he didn’t know how many.

Suffredin asked whether the city had given any consideration to the economic development impact of the proposal or only equity concerns.

Reid indicated that there had not been any economic impact review, but he was concerned that cashless stores disadvantaged low income residents who lack bank accounts.

Suffredin noted that sports venues including Soldier Field have gone cashless. Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) added that cash is not accepted at Northwestern University basketball games.

As drafted, the ordinance is limited to food stores and retail establishments — so it appears it would not apply to restaurants or sports or entertainment venues.

The ordinance also has carve outs to let merchants refuse bills with face values over $20 and to permit them to refuse to accept cash for phone, mail or internet-based transactions, unless payment is to take place on the business premises.

Suffredin said he could think of a lot of reasons why it would not be a bad idea for a small business to be cashless.

He said the cashless ban might affect businesses that are thinking about moving here and that the city is not in a position “to be hostile toward investment.”

Business owners who showed up at Monday’s Council meeting to object to the bag tax item on the agenda did not address the cashless ban proposal.

The cashless ban was approved for introduction 8-1, with a final vote scheduled for the Council’s Jan. 23 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Leave a comment

The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.