Tribeca’s First No-Cash Restaurant

Mulberry & Vine cards only sign“Sorry, we don’t take cash,” said the cashier (right word?) at Mulberry & Vine when I went for lunch today. Instead, you can use a credit or debit card. I hadn’t been to the restaurant in a while, so I asked owner Michelle Gauthier about it. I think it’s a fascinating shift—and it’s undoubtedly the future—so I asked her how it came about.

A week before we opened on 27th Street, I happened to go into Fuku, David Chang’s restaurant in the East Village. I tried to buy a cookie, and they wouldn’t accept my cash. I was actually a little bit ticked off. It was like $2! Later, I thought about it. David Chang is a genius as far as restaurants and food and knowing what people want. I slept on it, and in the morning, I realized that if he’s doing this, there’s a damn good reason. The management of cash is a burden and a timesuck—the counting and the recounting and the bank runs…. At the end of the day, there’s always $4.22 that no one can ever locate. It takes an employee 30 minutes or an hour trying to find a few dollars. This happens every night, and it beats people down right when everyone just wants to leave. So we decided to try it in Nomad. It was the best thing I’ve ever done for my employees. It was life-changing. Three weeks later we did it in Tribeca. Yes, we pay a credit-card fee on every transaction, but removing the mental anguish of having to deal with cash makes it more than worth it. And you know what? The kids today don’t carry cash. We gotten very little pushback—if we had, I’d have reconsidered it. I think the world is moving to being cashless and Chang saw it.

Mulberry & Vine receipt from SquareI assumed that tips must be higher, because the preset amounts start at 15%, which is more than the leftover change or dollar bill that I assume most people deposit in the tip jar, but Gauthier said that tips have basically stayed the same.

What I also found notable was that Square, which Mulberry & Vine uses to process transactions, automatically keeps track of your visits for the restaurant’s loyalty program. No annoying card to dig out and proffer! You have to have entered your email (to receive a receipt) at any business using Square in order for it to work; you’ll then receive an email saying “Congrats, you earned your first star! Earn 9 more stars and get: Free Pick 3!” (Or whatever the restaurant’s reward is. Once you’ve visited 10 times, you’re emailed a redemption code, which is nice, but it would better if you swiped your card and got the message that the meal is free.) I wondered aloud why the email would even be necessary—Square could certainly keep track of your visits without it. “It’s so Square can sell your email to me,” explained Gauthier. Isn’t it interesting to learn how things work?

P.S. “You know what’s funny?” said Gauthier. “People will look at the sign, then put away their money and pull out a card—because they’re so trained for businesses to be cash-only.”

P.P.S. It’s older people who really hate it, right? “They don’t even think it’s legal. But once you explain it, they totally get it. They don’t always like it, but they understand the reasoning.”

P.P.P.S. Cash gratuities, as indicated by the tip jar, are still accepted.



  1. While I’m sure it will not affect their particular business, I hope this does not become the norm. It is discriminatory towards those with lower incomes who do not have a bank card.

  2. I’m not a lawyer, but the last time I looked we are in the USA and all USA currency ever issued is still legal tender.
    Let’s see ’em call the police when cash is offered.
    Wanna bet on the outcome?
    I will bet anyone $100 that the police would say it’s NOT theft of service and that they MUST accept it!
    Oh- and the bet is CASH ONLY! ha!=)

    • There is no federal law mandating the acceptance of cash.


      “I thought that United States currency was legal tender for all debts. Some businesses or governmental agencies say that they will only accept checks, money orders or credit cards as payment, and others will only accept currency notes in denominations of $20 or smaller. Isn’t this illegal?

      “The pertinent portion of law that applies to your question is the Coinage Act of 1965, specifically Section 31 U.S.C. 5103, entitled “Legal tender,” which states: “United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues.”

      “This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no Federal statute mandating that a private business, a person or an organization must accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services. Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise. For example, a bus line may prohibit payment of fares in pennies or dollar bills. In addition, movie theaters, convenience stores and gas stations may refuse to accept large denomination currency (usually notes above $20) as a matter of policy.”

    • “I’m not a lawyer”

      Clearly, because if you were, then you would understand that you cannot force a business to accept cash. Legal tender laws apply to debts incurred and do not regulate the private contract between buyer and seller.

  3. I rarely use cash, but let’s look at the downside of using cards for everything
    – Prices increase to cover transaction fees, disadvantaging the less affluent
    – We surrender our privacy to banks, credit card companies and now instant payment vendors, who now know everything that we purchase, allowing them to sell our information, target us, etc.
    – we make banks, etc. richer and more powerful.

  4. I just read an article about this (I don’t remember where) the other day that addressed a lot of the concerns. For example, some places have set up vending machines to exchange cash for pre-paid cards, which then can be used to purchase items at a no-cash establishment. Of course this has some nominal fee, and credit cards have fees, as mentioned in other posts. The tradeoff though is that the costs to process cash for businesses is real in time, throughput (slower checkout), lost cash, cause for theft (nobody is going in to Mulberry & Vine to steal chicken pazole), etc., appear to make a compelling case.

  5. That’s just crazy.

    Sure there’s a downside to operators/owners having to handle cash, but the bigger headache in any restaurant is chargebacks, frauds and disputes on credit cards. I’m a small business owner and there are so many fraudulent credit cards these days we now have someone working a good number of hours each week dealing with merchant processing and the good folks at AMEX/Visa/MC and trying to recover “cash”.

    Also, any restaurant having their people track down $4.22 for half an hour has other issues:)