Evanston ‘s City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to adopt an ordinance that would force all retail merchants in the city to accept payments in cash.

Such measures, promoted by their progressive advocates as a protection for the unbanked, are supported by the ATM Industry Association, a cash-machine trade group that has a vested interest in promoting the use of cash by consumers.

A tally of state-level cashless-ban legislation as of February 2023 produced by the ATMIA. Credit: ATMIA.com

As of February this year, the ATMIA said 12 states had adopted such bans and 12 had rejected them, while such bans had been proposed in nine other states, including Illinois.

Since then, SB 1979, which would have created a cashless ban in Illinois, was approved by the state Senate on a 40-16 vote, but was referred back to the House Rules Committee at the end of the spring legislative session. (A similar measure, HB 5255, died at the end of the 2020 legislative session.)

SB 1979 would have carved out an exception to the cash ban for restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. in an effort to protect against robbery.

That’s an exception that is not included in the proposed Evanston ordinance.

The proposed state law would have imposed penalties starting with a $50 fine for a first offense. The Evanston ordinance, proposed by Ald. Devon Reid (8th), begins its penalties with a $1,000 fine for a first offense.

In a city staff survey, of the 33 local businesses that responded, seven said they don’t accept cash and the 26 others said they do. None of those that do accept cash now said they were planning to switch to a cashless model in the future.

Business owners who don’t accept cash say they feel safer — that it reduces the threat of being robbed at the store or being assaulted while taking cash to the bank.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Have you been to Wrigley Field and many other places that have installed no charge machines that take cash and issue a debit card?

    It serves the “unbanked” yet puts no additional burden on merchants.



    The city might want to look into this vs. forcing another retrograde “improvement”.

    After more than 50 years of being happy and proud to live here, since the current cabal took charge, with impunity, that is no longer the case.

    I remain opposed to virtually every initiative of Biss & Co.

    But, I do want to take the time to call out and thank Alder Reid for his support of the new Ryan Field.

    Evanston is on the wrong track, and for absolutely no good reason.

    1. This seems like a great idea. I had no idea about these machines. This would serve people who get paid in cash, too – servers, physical labor, etc. Lots of high school kids get paid in cash for weekend help, like my son, but since he’s under 18 he can’t have his own bank account.

    2. Did the Council use the word “unbanked”? So funny! What’s next? “Undriven” for those without cars? I suggest “unbrained” for those who invent these ridiculous words. As for these proposed machines that take cash and dispense debit cards, what does it accomplish besides shifting the risk of being robbed from the business to the customer? Duh.

  2. Council has no business in this issue. If a business doesn’t want to take cash that’s their choice. If customers don’t like it they will shop elsewhere.

    1. Exactly – it’s up the business. The council has no business in this fight. Seems as if they are bored.

      Side note … do you know how much income you can hide by taking cash? Literally, the govt cannot track it. It’s the one last thing we have that they cannot track. Take advantage of it!

  3. Once again, our city council and mayor are wasting valuable time on an issue that only impacts a small minority of businesses. This was an absolutely ridiculous proposal in the first place, of course from Reid, and does not deserve the attention it is getting. City council and mayor need to get to work on other more significant priorities, such as our crumbling infrastructure, and the need for additional public safety measures.

  4. Evanston Business Here. I thought I filled out the survey. We accept cash, but sometimes we’re out of change (running to the bank daily is a challenge), sometimes our food truck chef forgets the cash box, and we’ve had minor robberies and usually stop accepting cash for a few days, while we fix the security flaw and wait for our staff to feel safe again. We shouldn’t be fined $1000 for that. It’s an imperfect system for many, but punishing small businesses helps no one. ❤️

    1. Heather, our “progressive” city officials simply loathe capitalism, the market economy, and the profit motive. To them, taxpayers and businesses are simply an endless revenue source to be “milked” for their hare – brained “progressive” schemes – this “cashless ban” nonsense being a prime example…

      In your case, they don’t give a fig about your safety/operational issues, and so will do zilch to address them. But they are “straining at the bit” to “catch” you and merrily fine you that $1000.00, which they consider a “just” punishment for you – all in the name of “equity”…

      Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

      1. Equal results for unequal capability and effort is the mantra of all Lefties of which
        Biss & Co leads the pack !

        They really could not care less what we say here!

  5. This story and the one above about the trees just really shows how our City government wants to tell everyone how to live their lives.

  6. Just take a walk in downtown Evanston, then mosey on over to downtown Wilmette – see any differences? While more Evanston storefronts empty out, we place more burdens on prospective replacements – that’ll sure entice them to locate here. I’m generally a “leftie”, but I’m beginning to feel “right” here in Evanston. I encourage all commenters here to contact their alderperson TODAY to make their sentiments known…

  7. Why not create a “CITY-bank” for those who are unbanked? That way they could have access to the same opportunities without the costs that those of us who bank with credit unions or for-profit banks do. Don’t force businesses to use cash when there are better solutions, progressive ones to boot, out there.

  8. Here’s an instance where a study that produced data that informs intelligent decisions would have been useful. What percentage of the population would be adversely impacted by this? On the flipside, it will have greater adverse impact to businesses. When businesses dry up, a very large percentage of our population will be negatively impacted. Experienced business people know that you don’t spend time solving low-impact issues. In doing so, they’re actually creating a bigger problem. Can it get any dumber in Evanston?

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