Today’s Wall Street Journal has a story listing the growing number of coffee shops that have decided to end the always on and always free access to WIFI broadband. The story is No More Perks: Coffee Shops Pull the Plug on Laptop Users and it is by Erica Alini. It is a good article, although I think I spotted an oversight. She writes:
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.
The trend away from free always on WIFI started four years ago with Seattle’s Victrola Coffee. From the June 2005 New York Times article Some Cafe Owners Pull the Plug on Lingering Wi-Fi Users by Glenn Fleishman:
Victrola started providing free wireless access two years ago after customers asked for it. As in hundreds of other cafes, the owners hoped it would encourage regulars and infrequent patrons to buy more food and drinks. But there was also a disadvantage, staff members said: the cafe filled with laptop users each weekend, often one to a table meant for four. Some would sit for six to eight hours purchasing a single drink, or nothing at all.
This led Victrola to pass a policy that still exists at their 15th Avenue location to this day. From the same article:
So last month the cafe discontinued the free service on Saturdays and Sundays – and so far it has proved to be a sound business move. Weekend revenue is up and more seats are filled.
There is a growing number of coffee shops that have become laptop refugee camps. It is refreshing to see the trend is moving back to making coffee shops a more social atmosphere.