updated 01:35 pm EDT, Thu August 6, 2009
Coffee shops ban laptops
The economic downturn is causing some coffee shops, including Naidre's in Brooklyn, NY, to restrict when users can browse the Internet on their notebooks, says a Thursday WSJ report. The local neighborhood shop offers free Wi-Fi but a sign put up since the spring of 2008 warns that laptops are not allowed at certain mid-day hours unless the customer is eating as well as surfing or otherwise using their notebooks. Shop owners argue they find it hard to cater to a client who takes up the space and uses electricity for hours on end while ordering little to nothing else.
Shops other than Naidre's are also plugging up their outlets to discourage surfers, and save electricity. In San Francisco, some shops are taking a similar but less confrontational approach, with signs that ask laptop users to share tables when coffee shops are busy.
Others have varying rules. Cocoa Bar outlets in Brooklyn and on Manhattan's Lower East Side put up a rule more than five months ago that does not allow notebook use after 8PM on Fridays and Saturdays. Espresso 77 in Queens has locked out three of its five electrical outlets that are accessible to customers six months ago. Two of the three Café Grumpy shops in the city have also expressly forbidden notebooks altogether.
Larger coffee or bookstore chains such as Starbucks or Borders, which often or always charge for Wi-Fi hotspot access, aren't imposing such restrictions. Another book chain, Barnes & Noble, which offers free Wi-Fi, does not impose any restrictions on notebooks and their users.
A more concerted effort to restrict or ban portables is likely to have an effect on netbooks and other ultraportables whose small designs lend them to being used at coffee shops and other public areas.