After A $33,000 Settlement Van Leeuwen Will Start Accepting Cash

Van Leeuwen, a New York-based ice cream chain responsible for the controversial Kraft Macaroni and Cheese flavored ice cream, has agreed to pay $33,000 in fines to New York's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP). The company will also begin accepting cash payments from customers one year after first being penalized under the city's "cashless ban law" (per Eater). According to The New York Times, the law, which was passed in January 2020 and went into effect that November, requires retail businesses in the city to accept cash payments as well as credit and debit cards or at least provide a free machine on premises to convert cash to temporary cards. The city argued that the measure is necessary to protect people without bank accounts or credit cards and those who choose not to use credit cards for security or ethical reasons. Eater noted that the DCWP has reported over 301,700 New York households (about 9.4% of the city's population) do not have access to a bank account; the majority of whom are lower-income or people of color. The city intended to protect those households from discrimination when it passed the measure.

Eater reported in October 2021 that Van Leeuwen became one of the first companies to be fined under the law, which went into effect during the COVID-19 pandemic when many businesses avoided cash for health purposes. The city fined the ice cream chain $12,750, which it had not yet paid as of the new settlement.

Defending cash payments

According to Eater, the new settlement means that not only will the ice cream chain pay its accumulated fines to the city, but it will also begin accepting cash payments at its 19 New York City locations. New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he hopes Van Leeuwen serves as an example to other businesses that the city " ... will not allow any business to take advantage of this vulnerable population [the unbanked] or penalize customers just for wanting to use cash to pay for things."

In the first year after the Cashless Ban Law went into effect, Eater reported that 21 businesses were cited for violations including Bien Cuit, Junzi Kitchen, and Roberta's Pizza, though Van Leeuwen's has been the most high-profile. The trendy ice cream shop, opened in New York City in 2008 as a food truck and now operates 34 shops in seven states and sells its popular dairy and vegan ice cream flavors in freezer sections across the country (via Van Leeuwen).

New York is not alone in its battle against cashless retail. According to Eater, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New Jersey have passed bans on cashless businesses recently, while Massachusetts has mandated that all businesses accept cash and credit since 1978. Additionally, Washington D.C. passed a cashless ban in December 2019, though Street Sense Media reports the rule was not enforced through 2021 due to pandemic precautions, and Fast Company notes Chicago has been considering similar measures since 2017.