The New York City Council has approved a measure that will give restaurants the option to add a ten percent “COVID surcharge” to a diner’s check. The additional charge, should a restaurant choose to use it, will help the business cover any coronavirus-related costs it incurs while fulfilling the City’s strict guidelines.
Making Ends Meet
“This bill fundamentally is about saving the restaurant industry,” said the bill’s sponsor, Councilman Joe Borelli of Staten Island. “We’re trying to give restaurants the option of adding a surcharge to let their customers know they need to raise a little bit more money to make their ends meet.” Borelli pointed to a sad reality in the Big Apple, where more and more eating establishments have been forced to close because they cannot afford to maintain operations under COVID-era restrictions.
And while outdoor seating, and limited-capacity indoor dining, have allowed some restaurants to bring back customers, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson says it just doesn’t cut it. “Outdoor dining and limited capacity indoor dining are helpful, but not enough at this time—and not going to be enough when the cold weather comes,” he said. “The goal of the fee is to help restaurants have enough income to cover their costs.”
Short Term Opportunity
Eateries will have the option to apply the ten percent fee until 90 days after the City reinstates full indoor dining. As of September 30, New York restaurants can reopen indoor dining rooms at 25 percent capacity, with the possibility of 50 percent capacity by the end of October.
A decades-old city law previously prohibited any restaurant from charging fees beyond food, drink, and tax. Hence, the City Council’s decision to allow the COVID surcharge, which passed by an overwhelming 46-to-2 vote, was a necessary amendment to standing statute.
Still, even though all restaurants now have the option to add the surcharge, not every eatery is anxious to hike up prices.
Nick Criscitelli, who owns Da Nico Ristorante in Little Italy, says that despite losing out on their summer season, he can’t bring himself to raise prices on his customers. “Our customers are all families,” he said, “so why should we charge them any extra? It’s hard for them to come out now.”