Would Vancouver Coffee Shops Ever Pull The Free WiFi Plug?

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Other North American cities are beginning to wake up and smell the consequences. From The Wall Street Journal:

A sign at Naidre’s, a small neighborhood coffee shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., begins warmly: “Dear customers, we are absolutely thrilled that you like us so much that you want to spend the day…”

But, it continues, “…people gotta eat, and to eat they gotta sit.” At Naidre’s in Park Slope and its second location in nearby Carroll Gardens, Wi-Fi is free. But since the spring of 2008, no laptops have been allowed between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekends, unless the customer is eating and typing at the same time.

Amid the economic downturn, there are fewer places in New York to plug in computers. As idle workers fill coffee-shop tables — nursing a single cup, if that, and surfing the Web for hours — and as shop owners struggle to stay in business, a decade-old love affair between coffee shops and laptop-wielding customers is fading. In some places, customers just get cold looks, but in a growing number of small coffee shops, firm restrictions on laptop use have been imposed and electric outlets have been locked. The laptop backlash may predate the recession, but the recession clearly has accelerated it.

More after the leap…

“You don’t want to discourage it, it’s a wonderful tradition,” says Naidre’s owner Janice Pullicino, 53 years old. A former partner in a computer-graphics business, Ms. Pullicino insists she loves technology and hates to limit its use. But when she realized that people with laptops were taking up seats and driving away the more lucrative lunch crowd, she put up the sign. Last fall, she covered up some of the outlets, describing that as a “cost-cutting measure” to save electricity.

So far, this appears to be largely a New York phenomenon, though San Francisco’s Coffee Bar does now put out signs when the shop is crowded asking laptop users to share tables and make space for other customers.

I can’t see this happening in Vancouver just yet, nor any time soon for that matter. Our city hasn’t been as hard hit by the recession as either San Fran or New York, at least not enough to make such moves even remotely worth entertaining. With only a few exceptions, most of our coffee shops appear to still be falling over themselves offering free WiFi.

Laptop or no laptop, the restaurant industry I grew up in had a name for folks who sat nursing a cup of coffee for three hours. They were called campers, and they were thrown out. But the “sure you can” culture of our cafes (and even some restaurants) makes us all patient to a fault with those who trespass against what you would assume to be common business courtesy. Nobody is in the business of saying no. Let them eat Waves.

11 Responses to “Would Vancouver Coffee Shops Ever Pull The Free WiFi Plug?”

  1. Coffee Shops Pull the Plug on Laptop Users on August 6th, 2009 4:34 am

    [...] of a national movement? See also: The Plug is Being Pulled on Laptop Use in Some Coffee Shops Would Vancouver Coffee Shops Ever Pull The Free WiFi Plug? WSJ Says Cafe Owners Suppressing Laptop Users “They Sit for Hours and Don’t Spend [...]

  2. Darcy McGee on August 6th, 2009 5:50 am

    It’s not ONLY a New York phenomenon. The Victrola Cafe in Seattle started getting selective with their WiFi a long time ago, though in that case their decision was to unplug it on weekends and leave it plugged in through the week.

    Great place. I used to hang there quite a bit.

  3. Lili on August 6th, 2009 7:07 am

    I’m all for the coffee shops enforcing limits on laptop usage, even if just during rush hours; it’s their prerogative, after all, just like “no shirt, no shoes, no service”. It’s a place of business.

    But then I’m not the pretentious type that thinks that surfing in a coffee shop is somehow exotic, or makes one look arty; so maybe I’m not qualified to comment :P

  4. Erik on August 6th, 2009 11:11 am

    I quite like the approach Bridgehead – a local Ottawa coffee chain – takes. They will give you an hour of free wireless with a purchase. To stay longer you obviously need to make another purchase. Keeps out some of the campers, although many will still nurse their one drink for hours while working on a paper or something…

  5. Hey! If You’re Reading This At A NYC Coffee Shop, You’d Better Buy Something – 70th Edition | The Daily Digest on August 6th, 2009 11:24 am

    [...] says this will never happen in Vancouver. Gawker wonders where all the bloggers will [...]

  6. Hey! If You’re Reading This At A NYC Coffee Shop, You’d Better Buy Something – 55th Edition | The Daily Digest on August 6th, 2009 11:25 am

    [...] says this will never happen in Vancouver. Gawker wonders where all the bloggers will [...]

  7. Stephan Drolet on August 6th, 2009 11:55 am

    If they aren`t buying the product, then what other place of business would allow people to sit “for hours” ? Especially if there IS a lucrative crowd trying to get in.

    Artsy or not, these people are simply abusing someone elses generosity and restrictions are in the establishments best interest. More power to them.

    Too cheap to pay for your internet and now too cheap to pay for your coffee. How exotic.

    S.

  8. Fewer Twitters with caffeine jitters? | Design Website Easy on August 7th, 2009 2:23 pm

    [...] — by reducing WiFi privileges, removing outlets, or banning the machines outright. This article has spawned a vast number of spin-off pieces and conversations across the Web. Meanwhile, the [...]

  9. Fewer Twitters with caffeine jitters? | dv8-designs on August 7th, 2009 2:47 pm

    [...] — by reducing WiFi privileges, removing outlets, or banning the machines outright. This article has spawned a vast number of spin-off pieces and conversations across the Web. Meanwhile, the [...]

  10. Vaughan on August 10th, 2009 11:02 am

    I agree with the NYC approach and have seen lots of “campers,” esp. during busy times, that should give their heads a shake,

    Some people have obviously moved their “home office” to a coffee shop and are making long business calls on their cell phones (LOUDLY) as well as doing their emails etc.

    The one hour idea is a good one

    I’m not in the restaurant business but I find it stunning (or stunned) that people don’t realize some little guy/gal is trying to run one and hopefully make some money.

  11. Robert on October 6th, 2009 3:21 pm

    I like the term Cafe Lofers.

    I think it is a fine line the cafes have to walk.

    I also wrote about it here:
    http://coffeevancouver.ca/2009/09/10/wireless-rumblings/