NYC restaurants can add a new surcharge to your bill beginning today

Your next bill—whether it's for outdoor dining or indoors—could include up to a 10% surcharge.

Written by
Bao Ong
Covid bill
Photograph: Shutterstock

New York City’s restaurants can offer outdoor seating and limited indoor dining, but starting today, there’s another boost to help businesses stay afloat: they can now legally tack on a surcharge to your bill.

The city council recently passed legislation for this “recovery charge,” which allows restaurants to add up to 10% more to your total bill (the additional charge cannot be used as tips for employees). It’s meant to help restaurants cover the costs of PPE, rent and outdoor dining setups. Once indoor dining is back to full capacity, restaurants can keep the surcharge for up to 90 days.

But it’s still unclear if and how restaurants will implement the surcharge or how diners will react.

In a Twitter poll conducted by Time Out New York, only slightly more than half of the voters said they would pay more to help restaurants weather the current crisis.

Diners won’t find a surcharge on their bill at James, however, according to Deborah Williamson, the founder of the Prospect Heights restaurant in Brooklyn.

While this is potentially great for the industry, each restaurant has to grapple with the nuances of how they function and the community they have,” says Williamson, who opened James about 12 years ago. “I feel like for us, it would inhibit us when so much of our business comes from regulars in the neighborhood.”

One of the major criticisms of the surcharge is that it could take away tips from servers if diners become confused on a bill or feel they should tip less with the additional charges.

Others view the surcharge is only a first step in helping the restaurant industry.

“We need to support New York City’s restaurant industry during this unprecedented crisis, but as we do that — we cannot just focus on restaurant owners, at the expense of restaurant workers,” said Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage, a national organization representing service industry workers, in a statement.  

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