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Outdoor dining Chelsea Market
Photograph: Colin Miller

NYC restaurants could soon charge up to a 10% surcharge to your bill

Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed support for the bill to help restaurants survive the current crisis.

Written by
Bao Ong
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In New York City, there could soon be up to a 10% surcharge on your next restaurant bill—for outdoor dining, indoor dining (when it’s allowed starting September 30th), takeout and delivery—if Mayor Bill de Blasio signs a bill the city council passed today to help restaurants recover from the current crisis. 

De Blasio has expressed support for the legislation and if instituted, restaurants will have to let diners know about the “COVID-19 Recovery Charge” before they place an order (businesses are allowed to place a notice at the bottom of each menu page). The surcharge can be up to 10% of the total bill, and cannot be used as tips for employees. Once indoor dining is back to full capacity, restaurants can keep the surcharge for up to 90 days.

Joseph Borelli, a Staten Island councilmember who sponsored the bill, and supporters of the surcharge have argued that the additional fee will help restaurants and bars stay alive after facing unprecedented challenges since indoor dining was shuttered across the five boroughs back in mid March. It’s meant to help restaurant owners pay for safety equipment for employees, outdoor dining setups and rent, among other fixed costs.

Other cities across the country, even before the current crisis, have allowed restaurants to include these surcharges. Restaurateurs have said it helps pay health insurance and allows them to pay employees a higher minimum wage.

A similar version of this bill was first introduced by Borelli a few years ago with a 5% cap on a surcharge but the legislation stalled. At a time when so many restaurants have permanently closed, however, there’s been more pressure on city officials to help out restaurants.

In an informal poll Time Out New York tweeted out on Wednesday afternoon, it appears a majority are in favor of the surcharge:

“The passage of the COVID-19 recovery bill will help struggling restaurants generate additional revenue to help pay for expenses like PPE for their employees, outdoor dining setups, rent, labor and other expenses to give them a fighting chance of survival,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, in a statement. “We commend the City Council for passing this important temporary legislation and urge Mayor de Blasio to sign it into law immediately.”

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