NYC restaurants can add a 10 percent 'coronavirus' surcharge

The New York City Council approved a bill Wednesday that will allow restaurants to add up to a 10 percent surcharge to a customer’s bill in order to help restaurants struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"We're keeping their jobs alive," said Brooklyn Councilman Kalman Yeger. "All throughout the city we see restaurants closing, every single day, they've been closing for months and we are literally the gap to whether or not restaurants are going to be able to survive in this city."

The bill passed nearly unanimously, but Councilman Brad Lander was one of only 2 lawmakers to vote against it.

"I don't feel comfortable adding a 10 percent surcharge to the one sector of our economy where workers are still paid a sub-minimum wage of $10 an hour plus tip, without doing something that either guarantees that we raise the minimum wage or that this surcharge is shared with workers," Lander said. Lander indicated he also doesn't want to add a fee if there's a chance it will mean customers would be less inclined to leave a tip.

New York City restaurants have been decimated by the pandemic despite efforts like expanded outdoor dining to help. A recent survey from YELP shows more than 2,800 establishments have closed permanently since March.

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In a statement the New York City Hospitality Alliance came out strongly in favor of the new legislation.

“New York City restaurants have been financially devastated, and it only makes matters worse that a 45-year-old regulation discriminates against only the restaurant industry by prohibiting these small businesses from having the option of using a clearly disclosed surcharge if they so choose. 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. We commend the City Council for passing this important temporary legislation and urge Mayor de Blasio to sign it into law immediately,” said Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance.