Downbeat Cafe, Echo Park, before the WIFI ban
Some have suggested that the end of the office is nigh, and that the Coffee Shop is a good alternative if you need some social interaction and a jolt of caffeine, some shops are finding that it isn't necessarily good business and are unplugging the WiFi. According to the LA Times, when the Downbeat Cafe turned it off, "The complaints poured in, but so did the compliments: Lots of customers appreciated a wireless cup of joe."
Edward Lloyd's Coffee House, London
Jessica Guynn writes in the Times:
Coffee shops were the retail pioneers of Wi-Fi, flipping the switch to lure customers. But now some owners are pulling the plug. They're finding that Wi-Fi freeloaders who camp out all day nursing a single cup of coffee are a drain on the bottom line. Others want to preserve a friendly vibe and keep their establishments from turning into "Matrix"-like zombie shacks where people type and don't talk.
Others are looking at compromises, and turning off the WiFi at dinner time and on weekends. At the Nook in San Francisco:
"People were sitting all day long on one cup of coffee, blocking tables. Nobody was talking, and there was no table turnover. It was hard to make money," owner Nicola Blair Nook said. "I turn off the Wi-Fi and in 10 minutes all the computers are gone."
The article does note that "Coffeehouses have always attracted bookish deadbeats who stayed too long and bought too little;" Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de
Bouvier Beauvoir seemed to live in them back in the 50s.. And, that they have always had an important role to play; both Lloyds of London and The New York Stock Exchange were founded in coffee shops.
But it doesn't mention that WiFi is really an interim technology. One often sees couples at a table staring into their iPhones instead of into each other's eyes. iPads have 3G as an option. In a year or two, they can pull out the WiFi and nobody will notice.
More in the LA Times
More on free wifi:
Closing the Digital Divide: 5 Ways to Get Free Internet Access : TreeHugger