‘This is not the time for it’; DC’s cashless ban leaves some Adams Morgan business owners scared

Businesses have to pull out the cash drawers now after a financial mandate was enacted on Oct. 1. The new law requires cash transactions as a customer option, but some business owners are unhappy about it.

When customers of one of Adams Morgan’s favorite sweet shops showed up one day last February, smashed glass littered the entrance to the colorful building.

Robbers shattered the hot pink-lined glass door into The Cakeroom and stole a cash drawer with $50 inside.

The bakery at 2006 18th Street NW continued to service patrons with banana chocolate or carrot cupcakes among the clean-up efforts in the retro pink, red and white store.

The customers might not have noticed, but the incident had a bigger impact on owner Fadi Jaber.

“It was very traumatizing and emotionally draining,” Jaber said. “So ever since then, we’ve gone totally cashless and even advertised it on social media, plus on the glass window. We haven’t had another robbery since.”

Jaber said always preferred taking payment by debit or credit card. He occasionally accepted cash but between the burglary and finding money missing from the drawer, he told customers they needed to use plastic.

Jaber said the cash became burdensome.

Jaber fears that will not last long with criminals now aware that every business in the District will keep cash in the till.

Starting this month, D.C. businesses can no longer refuse cash payments. The ban on cashless businesses comes about three years after the D.C. Council approved it and added funding for it in fiscal year 2024.

D.C. follows other cities like New York and Philadelphia in the cash mandate, trying to be more inclusive with shoppers.

“I don’t think it’s fair for them to enforce something like that,” Jaber said. “It should be up to businesses whether they want to go cashless or not. [The government is] not the one running my business and knowing how secure it is. So, I don’t agree with it.”

Jaber said the ban is “invasive,” but he will abide by it and purchase a new cash drawer, which he has not had since the break-in.

“If another robber comes, another robber comes,” he said. “I just hope the government will help us.”

Burglaries in Adams Morgan have according to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s crime data. D.C. police describe a burglary as entering a site with the intent to take something.

DC Councilman Kenyan McDuffie, chair of the Committee on Business and Economic Development, voiced the concerns of businesses during last month’s State of the District and Region Conference, hosted by the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

“We have to ask whether or not this is something we should do October 1 or perhaps we should push out a little further while we address some of the concerns some of the business community has,” McDuffie said. “We have folks who are, literally, some businesses, locking their doors during business hours in the day because they are fearful of robberies that they’ve experienced.”

Kristen Barden, executive director of the Adams Morgan Partnership Business Improvement District, said “Most of our businesses accept cash so it really isn’t an issue here.”

Barden said the BID put the new law in the Adams Morgan weekly newsletter to inform the neighborhood’s businesses, but so far that’s the most of the organization’s education efforts.

Businesses that “discriminate against cash” will face civil penalties, according to the.

Che Ruddell-Tabisola, director of government affairs for the D.C. Restaurant Association, said the ban was first proposed in 2018, a “different era.”

“This is not the time for it,” Ruddell-Tabisola said. “Let’s get the gun violence under control, let’s get things right to like a reasonable state, and then we’ll start taking cash again.”

The director said the threat of robberies and burglaries increases in entertainment areas like Adams Morgan, especially if they require cash.

Ruddell-Tabisola works to constantly inform eateries of laws and rules they need to follow but he has “never seen operators more scared to comply with a law.”

The ban is in place for now, but Ruddell-Tabisola said the association reached out to The Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection to ask about an education campaign on the new law and if there is a grace period.

He said it is unclear if there is a grace period for cashless businesses.

Dima Amro

Dima Amro is a reporter for ҹֱ covering the Adams Morgan neighborhood. She is an investigative journalism graduate student at American University. Prior to that, she worked at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tennessee.

Add comment

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular

Most discussed