Customers lined up outside of Zocalo in downtown Sacramento Monday, proving that not even a pandemic can stop Californians from getting their taco fix.
But there’s a new routine when it comes to ordering at the restaurant.
“Payment is something that creates a lot of touch points for both the guests and our employees,” said assistant general manager Eric Acosta. “To solve those problems, we went strictly to touchless payment.”
Patrons pay for their to-go orders using a credit or debit card online, or by using payment options through their phone. Months into the COVID-19 outbreak in California, a growing number of California businesses are going cashless, fearing the exchange of money could cause the virus to spread.
But a bill in the Legislature — introduced back in February — would require businesses to accept payments in cash.
Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill authored the proposal and says banning cash payments has the biggest impact on low-income Californians, who are less likely to have a credit card or bank account.
That includes many who have worked throughout the pandemic.
“Most of the essential workers are low wage, and have a high chance of being near or below the poverty line,” Hill said. “And cash transactions are really necessary to buy essential goods.”
Hill says he’s considering making it an urgency bill, which requires more votes to pass but means it would take effect immediately if signed by the governor.
Last year, San Francisco passed an ordinance that requires stores to accept cash.
Vanessa Lopez, owner of Heart Clothing Boutique on Capitol Avenue, says she’s encouraging customers to pay online before picking up their purchases.
“Just so we’re limiting interactions” between employees and customers, she said.
In addition to the risk of spreading germs, Lopez says, cash transactions require her to make drop-offs at the bank, which means further face-to-face interactions.
It remains unclear if exchanging money poses a more substantial risk than other kinds of interactions. A report in the UK from March claimed the World Health Organization had warned about the risks of cash transactions, but the WHO later claimed its statements were mischaracterized.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages people to use contactless payment options, and says customers should “sanitize [their] hands after paying with card, cash, or check.”
At Zocalo, Acosta believes the trend of contactless payment isn’t going away, even after California starts to lift its stay-at-home order.
“Even though we’re hoping to open up our doors, that doesn’t mean we’re going back to the normal that we previously knew,” he said. “It’s more so establishing a new normal.”
Meanwhile, Hill hopes his bill creates a different kind of “new normal” — one where cash is here to stay.
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