NYC proposes a 15 percent surcharge on dine-in restaurants

The new legislation would slap a surcharge on a customer's bill, while raising restaurant staff wages

Written by
Christina Izzo
Llama Inn
Photograph: Time Out/Ali GarberLlama Inn

Between the uncertainties over whether indoor dining will continue and a new set of regulations for wintertime outdoor dining, the future of eating out in New York is changing on a daily—hell, hourly—basis. And new legislation is adding more fuel to the fire: NYC Council member Antonio Reynoso—who represents Bushwick, Ridgewood, and Williamsburg under the 34th District—proposed a bill today that would allow New York bars and restaurants to add a 15-percent maximum surcharge on customers’ bills, with the caveat that the venue would also have to pay all tipped staffers a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

The so-called Food Service Establishment Surcharge” would have to be “clear and conspicuous” on the consumer receipt, according to text of the legislation, and it must be explicit to customers that the additional charge is a surcharge and not a gratuity. The charge would not apply to food trucks, street vendors, or any chain restaurant or bar with more than 15 locations, reports EaterTakeout and delivery orders will also be also exempt. If passed, the legislation would go into effect 120 days after the bill becomes law. 

The proposal is a permanent update to what initially was a temporary fix introduced last month: A 10-percent “recovery charge” that restaurants and bars could tack onto a customer’s total bill to help come to terms with the “new normal” under COVID-19, i.e. cover the costs of outfitting staff with PPE, setting up outdoor dining rigs, etc. Both the 10-percent temp surcharge and Reynoso’s permanent proposal today received support from One Fair Wage, a nonprofit coalition working to end subminimum wages in the U.S.

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