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.

Join the Conversation


  1. Not having cash on premises is a loss prevention strategy that helps to reduce crime. Crime has been spiraling, why give more opportunities to thieves?

  2. So no information or data has been gathered on this topic yet a decision was made to approve forcing Evanston businesses to take cash payments. From the article it seems that the only data point is that Ald. Reid at one time wasn’t able to buy something because all he had was cash.

    Given the very precarious position our city is in because we are losing retailers seemingly every day, wouldn’t it be prudent to do a little research? More concerning is that only Ald. Suffredin called out this poor and lazy approach to decision making.

  3. As a small business owner, taking cash is really cumbersome. I would only be able to take exact change. And I also feel some trepidation in knowing how many robberies take place (tip jars being stolen, windows being broken) thinking that thieves may know our businesses have cash on hand. No thanks.

    1. Interesting. I had no idea this was such a problem for businesses. Then again, we seem to have an unusual concentration of tip jar theft / broken windows / etc around the commercial areas of Evanston.

      I sometimes get paid in cash and it can be hard to spend it. It’s extremely irritating, since I can’t deposit my cash at the bank either (it’s online.) And I suspect this is some kind of equity issue, like… ‘but then the underprivileged panhandlers can’t spend their hard-earned money in Evanston shops…” because EVERY FREAKING THING in Evanston is some kind of equity issue. I’m exhausted by it all and can’t wait to leave for a livelier city.

  4. I think businesses owners should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to accept cash. The City should conduct research to determine how a cashless ban would impact businesses and consumers before adopting this type of restriction.

  5. Could we please have the other council members find their voice and stop Devon Reid from running the council. Honestly, he is the least qualified Alderperson, he has a failed track record on his personal finances yet he keeps telling business what they should do. Could someone please on the council actually lead and bring back basic decorum and rules for how the meeting are run. Reid gets up out of his seat and has side talks in the middle of city council meetings. The city has wasted enough time and Reid’s proposals have consumed city, public and business resources. Please see that he is a narcissist who craves conflict and chaos rather than cooperation and compromise. He loves good, bad or any attention he can get because outside of his pulpit on council he is a lonely, sad pathetic man. I do feel some compassion towards him because his life seems so out of control and rudderless, but then I read another proposal of his and realize he does not deserve respect or compassion. He does not have respect for anyone on the council, nor residents, nor business owners. Enough. Please, Alderperson Wynne, Harris, Revelle, someone demand order and decorum for the council meetings and hold people to tight standards. Robert’s rules of order, and strictly following time limits and processes.

  6. Me, me me me, me me. Signed, Devon.

    Agree with the comments that our lazy Council approved this with NO due diligence. Shameful.

    Perhaps the plight of the unbanked should be researched to determine root causes, leading to real solutions.

    Evanston business owners, RUN!!

  7. If you don’t want to patronize a business that doesn’t accept cash, that’s your prerogative. Thanks Mr. Suffredin for being a voice of reason. But 8 of 9 of your colleagues think that Big Brother knows best. The City shouldn’t be micromanaging retail stores, but they do and we see a bunch of empty storefronts as a result – especially downtown.

  8. yeah it’s real important that panhandlers be able to purchase artisanal bread from Hewn with cash. Why isn’t Chamber of commerce making more noise? Or are they like everyone else in this town, too scared of liberal backlash to speak up?

  9. I am surprised by these comments. We live in the United States and for a business not to accept our own legal tender does not seem right. Businesses have taken cash since the inception of this country despite risk of theft, etc.
    However, if not requiring businesses to take cash then another idea would be to have machines which take cash and then spit out a debit card which could then be used at these cashless businesses. Machines could be set up at points in the business district. This seems like a very viable solution to me.

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