Friday, January 04, 2008

GL Reader Question: Why So Many Cash Only Restaurants?

Every GL reader has probably had an Oh Crap Moment in a restaurant upon realizing that they were dining in an establishment that only takes cash and didn't have enough cash money on them. We're veering into territory belong to our friends at Eater here, and so aren't sure if Brooklyn has more or fewer restaurants with cash-only policies (proportionally, of course). A reader writes to complain and ask:
I have a question regarding many restaurants in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens along Smith and Court Streets. So many fine restaurants in the area, featuring great food, great decor, etc., still insist on delivering a farewell go-f*ck-yourself to their patrons when the check is delivered by refusing to accept credit cards. What is with this trend? Why does it have to be this way? Are margins so thin in the area? Am I alone in finding it frustrating either to have to carry $200 cash, be forced into an undignified cash collection with your dinnermates, or to have to go on a 10PM stroll to an ATM while everyone else is having coffee?

I can't emphasize how unprofessional and unimpressive I find this practice, and Im miffed by the utter lack of remorse or regret displayed by staff when faced with this problem. Is there nothing to be done?

Of course, Luger's is the standard bearer for this unfortunate practice - but off the top of my head some CG/CH cash-only places include: Robin des Bois on Smith, Joya on Court, Frankie's on Court, Lobo on Court, BarTabac on Smith (accepts cash and AmEx only) and Cafe LULUc on Smith.

I'm sure there are others too! I'm just am curious as to whether I am alone in finding the practice loathesome.
We'd add Bubby's and Rice in Dumbo to the list.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only been living in the City for about two years now and I've lived many other places. This is unique to NYC as far as I can tell, which makes me wonder if the transaction fees are higher here. I know that at least in other places if you're not taking credit cards then you are scared to lose out to your competition. What I find most comical are places that are cash-only and yet they have an ATM machine in the place at which they will be happy to take $2.00 for their transaction fee.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems specific to Brooklyn -- you rarely, if ever, hear of that in Manhattan. Makes me wonder if 1) It's some kind of a trendy Brooklyn thing? It's cooler to maintain that "local business" vibe or 2) There's some skimming off the top. Either way = tres annoying. Nice people are speaking up about it.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe some tax evasion going on on Smith Street?

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given how cheap Joya is, yeah, their margins probably are that thin.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Z. Madison said...

When I moved to Carroll Gardens in the late 90s the only place in the area that would accept credit cards was Hanley's on Court/4th Place and the Japanese joint up on Smith across from Key Food.

Guess I'm just trained at this point to always hit up an ATM before heading out to eat.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the Brooklyn/Manhattan split on this, Frankies is especially annoying. Their Manhattan location DOES take credit cards. I love Frankies, but the cash only thing irks me to no end.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also think it may be a detriment to the restaurant, since I may not order that extra bottle of wine since I do not have enough cash on me, dont they understand that?

12:07 PM  
Anonymous jukeboxgraduate said...

It used to be more of a thing in Manhattan than it is now. I think in Manhattan they realized they had no choice, but there are still holdouts.

I am only truly annoyed by it if the restaurant does not clearly indicate that the establishment is cash only, and/or if the server and other staff cannot immediately tell me where the closest ATM is.

It is a detriment to the restaurant and they understand this but they also clearly need positive cash flow at all times. That outweighs any desire they have to get that extra $20 out of you.

What irks me these days is "no credit cards for delivery". I'm tired, I'm hungry, I worked until 8:30. I should have gotten money on the way home but I thought there was still X in the fridge. I call and suddenly it's "no credit cards for delivery"? Talk about losing business.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:17 is correct. It's tax evasion. No credit card receipts, no record of how much they actually did in sales that night.

Sure they don't have to pay fees, but they also can evade getting caught paying taxes.

It's the restaurant industry, folks!

1:52 PM  
Blogger J$ said...

way more prevalent in brooklyn... in park slope- press 195, tempo presto, song...etc

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think they do it to avoid the fees.

Maybe they even had their merchant accounts taken away.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

always thought it was because a)credit card companies charge big fees to the restaurants and b) you get your money more quickly with cash. or...... just wild speculation..... are any of these joints doing a little money-laundering? i was always a little suspicious of one old-time place on court street that stayed open VERY late and took only cash.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


For sure... they undereport their revenue to the IRS

And they pay CASH some of their workers, you know the ones that you don't see often at the "frontdesk". mostly helping in the kitchen, sometimes removing your empty plates...

By the way Cafe Luluc & Cafe Habana have the same owner

One day, the City will investigate this dirty business...


All the Best

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing I do to get back those guys that cheat the IRS, I mentioned in all the restaurant reviews possible this practice...

The petition is a great idea!

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not specific to Brooklyn. In fact, I was just at Milk & Honey a few weeks ago and was treated to a $250 bar tab... cash only.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

williamsburg, too, worse than PS and carroll gardens.

plus, cc fees are like 3% or less. its not insane.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A CASH ONLY restaurant is an obvious and surefire sign of an establishment that cheats their customers at every point/chance they have...everything from the quality of products used in their foods, to they way they do business is mitigated...WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!

12:28 PM  
Blogger Chewy said...

Is cash that archaic already? Why does this person take it as a personal affront that they have to carry cash? You don't have enough cash on you to pay for you $15 meal at Joya? You don't want to do the two minutes of research online to find out about a restaurant's policies? Wah-wah, cry me a river.

2:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm... anyone else think Chewy is in the food industry?

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with chewy (and i'm not in the industry). i mean seriously, if a place is cash-only they must be laundering money or doing it to under report income to the irs? as if taking credit cards prevents either of those things.

it seems to me that ass-rape by the credit card companies might be a bigger reason.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cash leaves no paper trail..the resturant biz is notorious for being a mechanism used to eaither 'clean" money or to take in cash and avoid taxes. The taxes are way more than the savings on the credit card fees...double digits % vs 1-2% ...come on...but saving the fee and cheating on taxes makes them even better off....And the owners then use the cash to buy RE on th sly were the sellers record the sale price as less than mkt value b/c they are taking a huge chunk of cash for the RE sale that they are not disclosing so no cap gain on that for them....and the resturant owner buy alot of diamonds and other gems and watches--portable, hold value and not traceable...

Come on folks...why so you think the resturant owners look like rao stars with the bling bling??? They can't put the cash they didn't make in a bank now can well then it would be found/traceable...

So what's with all the cash restuarnts in Williamsburg? They are either cleaning all the new drug $$ they are making from the new hipster dealers selling designer drugs to all the 20s-30s hipster drug addicts that have moved here in lasr 5 years and/or they area has attached more out of town MOB that like the cash biz, and helps clean their other non legit biz.

Wise up and wake up, your hood is full of HOODS.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:31 PM - the creit cards fees argument is nonsense. That is something that would impact all restaurants, regardless of location. Yes this practice appears to be disproportinately virulent in Brooklyn nabes.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CASH ONLY a problem for you? Well, I'll have you know the best "hidden gems" at which I've dined always have this policy. Excellent food, excellent prices, cash only.

I go out of my way to avoid dining establishments that accept credit cards as I'm sure they're passing along their credit card processing fees along to me!


2:19 PM  

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