Why LA restaurants aren't accepting cash payments

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"Cards only. Superfine is a zero cash business" sign. Photos by Benjamin Gottlieb.

Nick Montgomery says when it came time to decide whether his Echo Park restaurant would accept cash, it was a tough call. 

“This is a small space,” he says of Konbi, a Japanese-style cafe and sandwich shop on Sunset Boulevard. He adds that money is also a factor.

“It is about $5,000 a year for a restaurant this size just to count cash every day and take it to the bank. That's a lot of money to a small business.” 

Akira Akuto, Montgomery's business partner, points to another reason that pushed them to make their restaurant cash-free: “It costs money to take cash. Our insurance goes up."


Nick Montgomery and Akira Akuto behind the counter at Konbi in Echo Park.

Konbi is one of a small, yet growing number of restaurants in Los Angeles that are ditching cash. Everything else is fair game: credit, debit, and gift cards; electronic payment methods like Apple Pay or PayPal.

“There is a trend that is happening,” says Shelle Santana, a professor at Harvard Business School. “More businesses are looking at what their particular mix of payment is - within their customer base - and making a decision that they are going to go cashless."

Another restaurant that's gone cashless is Superfine Pizza in Los Angeles’ Fashion District, run by chef-owner Steve Samson.


Superfine Pizza is one of a small, yet growing number of businesses in Los Angeles that are going cashless.

“We really wanted to provide a safe working environment for [our employees],” Samson says. “Having a 400-square foot place with a window right onto the street -- unfortunately restaurants, especially cash-only restaurants, have been targeted by criminals in the past in Los Angeles.”


A sliced pepperoni pizza at Superfine Pizza.

Those reasons -- cost, insurance, safety, and space -- do not outweigh the discriminatory nature of refusing cash, says Vallie Brown, San Francisco supervisor who's leading an effort to ban cashless businesses.

“I started talking to people, and I realized that a large number of people in our African-American community were unbanked. Our immigrant community -- unbanked. Most of our homeless population is unbanked. It is discrimination, and it is not equitable," Brown says.

San Francisco’s cashless business ban is expected to go into effect later this year. Several other cities are considering similar moves, such as New York and Washington D.C.

But Los Angeles “currently doesn't have a policy on this issue,” according to Mehrin Rahman with LA City Councilmember Paul Krekorian’s office.

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