A plan from Ald. Devon Reid (8th) to bar Evanston businesses from refusing to accept cash failed to win final adoption at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Instead, on an 8-1 vote, it was referred to two committees for further review.

Reid’s proposal, first reported by Evanston Now on Dec. 4, had sailed through the Human Services Committee last month.

And it was approved for introduction by the full City Council on Jan. 9 with only Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) opposing it.

But after more council members heard over the past two weeks from local merchants who want the option of going cashless, its prospects greatly dimmed Monday night.

That left Reid fuming, claiming that to allow cashless businesses just “keeps the boot on the necks of people who have been disenfranchised.”

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) suggested exempting small businesses from the proposed rule.

He said he’d heard from retail shopkeepers in his ward — often women who may be alone in their stores — and for reasons of safety are reluctant to handle cash.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said she agreed with Nieuwsma and regretted that the city hadn’t had more conversations with the business community before the issue came to the Council.

Suffredin said voting for the measure without complete information — in a city full of vacancies and businesses running GoFundMe campaigns to try to stay alive — would be irresponsible.

But Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said cashless businesses are a problem for people of color. “I’m not personally disenfranchised from the banking system at the moment,” Harris said, but she added that she has family and friends who are.

Over a year ago, the City Council approved a financial literacy training program in part designed to reduce the share of residents who are unbanked. But there was no mention of that, or any other effort to get the unbanked into the banking system, during Monday’s council debate.

The latest FDIC survey says 5.4% of people in the Chicago metro area were unbanked in 2021 — down from 7.3% in 2019.

Unbanked rates specific to Evanston were not available from the survey.

The proposal is now scheduled to be reviewed by the Economic Development Committee and the Equity and Empowerment Commission.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. “That left Reid fuming, claiming that to allow cashless businesses just “keeps the boot on the necks of people who have been disenfranchised.”

    Anyone with a hundred dollars can open a basic savings (or even checking) account, which includes an ATM debit card, there are no credit checks, all is required are valid ID’s (for checking accounts the bank will check with ChexSystems for any negative checking account activities). Those who are “disenfranchised” are choosing to “disenfranchise” *themselves* by not acting as responsible and functioning adults by failing to get proper ID’s or simply taking initiative. There also those who eschew traditional banking out of fear that accounts may be garnished for child support, etc… and some actually prefer currency exchanges for their financial dealings…

    As a social services case manager, I’ve had clients who absolutely refuse to deal with banks, despite my urging them to use non – profit credit unions that welcome low – income and the unbanked to open accounts, including the opportunity to have a secured bank card that would enable them to establish/grow a credit history…

  2. Reid … perhaps pay your rent!! Have the decency on your own financials first – then you might be taken more seriously. Oh … wait … there is that topless beach motion …

  3. Glad they are listening to the 100% of businesses who might fear being robbed over the 5% of people who are unbanked, especially since, as Mr. Morrow notes, many of them could become banked if they so chose.

  4. Wow, what an inflammatory, irrelevant, tainted, fuming quote from Reid.

    His proposal solves nothing (look at the stats of unbanked) and only furthers the challenges for a number of businesses to continue operating here. And like it or not, the threat of robberies and theft are very real and only increasing.

    Reid and all of our elected officials continue to focus on issues the affect only a small portion of our population versus tackling more relevant issues like crime, taxes, and economic development which impact us all.

  5. “Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said cashless businesses are a problem for people of color.”

    How is that not offensive to people of color? I’d be pissed off if I was AA.

    I like Ald. Harris – she’s my alderman and I’m going to vote for her. It’s the easiness of these types of statements that I hear politicians spew out constantly that angers me. I always think to myself “How can AA’s not be pissed off or offended by these comments?” They act as if the majority of AA’s are poor, dumb and stupid.

    1. Ald. Harris has seemed to me thus far as level headed member of city council who takes the job seriously. Making an issue that broadly impacts people with limited means into an issue about race has gotten tiresome in this town.

      But I give Ald. Harris the benefit of the doubt and presume that she is on the side of helping the entire cohort of those who are disadvantaged, not just ones who are “people of color”.

      I think the intent of the proposal is good, but the cost is too high, or at least should be looked into further, which is exactly what they are doing.

  6. Classic Reid, “agree with my feelings-based idea or you’re a racist”. This is a non-issue, let business decide for themselves if they want to accept cash. I am certain that all grocery stores, big box retail, gas stations and bodegas will still continue accept cash.

  7. I could agree that if convenience stores and grocery stores were not accepting cash, that could be a real issue for some people, but for other types of less essential businesses, it is hard to overlook the safety concerns of requiring cash. I have trouble believing that any business that a decent size cash customer base such as grocery, or that attracts a low income customer base, would not continue to offer cash just based on demands of the marketplace, without the threatening big fist of small government weighing in.

  8. Crazy idea – if you don’t want to patronize a business that doesn’t allow cash, then go find one that does. And leave the government out of it.

  9. I greatly prefer cash, but though it is legal tender, businesses are not obligated to take cash, and I think it is wrong to force them.

  10. Gregory Morrow’s comment ignores the fact that one has to be 18 to open one’s own bank account and it will always be that way. Yes, a parent may be able to open a bank account for their child, but no child should have to depend on that. The point is that is a child should be able to use their cash received from an allowance, doing chores for neighbors, or other things to eat at a restaurant or make other small purchases and not have to question whether their cash will be accepted.
    Also, tourists sometimes have trouble using their debit/credit cards due to international fees, suspicion raised by unusual use, or other reasons. They should be able to rely on cash as a back-up.
    Also, anyone can have a temporary issue with their bank account or credit/debit card. So, cash needs to be a back-up option for everyone.
    And, I just prefer to use cash for small purchases to reduce the risk of double charges or identity theft. It maximizes my convenience if all business must accept it.
    The safety risks involved in handling cash are minimal compared to the ever present risk of mass shootings or terrorism. Those who are that risk averse should not work in retail or in a restaurant.
    And, really, there does not need to be any strong reason to support a ban on cashless businesses. Convenience for customers is plenty of reason.

  11. Another important aspect of this discussion is the issue of data privacy, tracking and the desire for anonymity. Cash is one of the few ways to transact business without having your transaction data tracked, sold and monetized.

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.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *