In an age when nearly every café is an Internet café, some are putting a stop to the laptop-crazed audience by unplugging routers and banning computers altogether.
It’s no secret that some cafés have restricted Wi-Fi availability and laptop use to certain hours and tables. Others offer unique Wi-Fi passwords that only last a couple of hours. According to the BBC, Kibbitznest in Chicago is one of the many Wi-Fi-free cafés sprouting up in the U.S., Vancouver, London and elsewhere. Annie Kostiner, one of Kibbitznest’s co-owners, tells the BBC that she wanted “to raise awareness about the imbalance between the use of electronic technology and face-to-face communication.”
Not only do laptops and available Wi-Fi discourage conversation in cafés, but they also suck up profits. Electricity costs go up while sales may plateau or suffer if Wi-Fi users stay too long without purchasing much. The BBC reported that August First, a coffee shop in Burlington, Vermont, turned its Wi-Fi off to customers in 2012 and banned laptops altogether in 2014. As a result, annual sales increased by 20 percent. Back in 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that a café in the heart of Silicon Valley turn its Wi-Fi off and was greeted with more compliments than complaints.
Four Barrel Coffee in San Francisco even boasts a painted-on decoy outlet as a joke, the LA Times reported.