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NY coffee shops restricting notebook use

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.

by MacNN Staff



  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969



    holy drive away your customers, Batman. How about if instead of a blanket ban, you sell wifi access based on how much the customer buys? If they buy a $4 coffee, they get 1 hour of wi-fi.

  1. cmoney

    Joined: Dec 1969


    have you seen

    NYC coffee shops? my local starbucks regularly has a guy who walks in with an LCD monitor and a mac mini and plugs the whole thing in and basically sets up shop for the frickin day.

    A LOT of these places are packed with freeloading "writers" who take up seats and tables all day and by a $2 coffee every 3-4 hours.

    Switching to $4 coffee for 1 hour of wi-fi makes sense economically but can you imagine the rage and whining that will take place if you take away their god given right to free wifi?!

  1. ff11

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: wow

    Did you miss the bit about "unless the customer is eating as well as surfing"?

    It is a coffee shop, not a library.

  1. joecab

    Joined: Dec 1969


    wait lemme set the mood

    (unpacking the world's smallest violin)

  1. Fast iBook

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Library vs cafe...

    I think what people need to do is be polite and respect that the venue offering you the wifi for free also expects you to buy something in exchange. If i ever plan to be in a place for more than an hour i always try to buy something, even if it's very small, because i am using their electricity if i bring my iBook.

    The upside to owning an iPhone, is that you can use the wifi without taking up table space which then someone else can use.

    I have sat in a starbucks for 4 hours before, using my iBook, plugged in, waiting for my girlfriend at the time to finish work (i lived 80 miles away at the time so 4 hours is not that long to wait). I bought 6 muffins, 2 waters, 3 hot cocoas, and then a coffee and hot cocoa when i left for her and i to drink on the walk to her place. That location sticks out to me for 2 reasons, one being the comfy chairs near more than usual number of wall outlets, and the motion sensor lights used in the bathroom.

    Libraries usually ban food, or restrict it to certain areas. Some people really need a quiet or non-house location to help them focus on what they are trying to do, but a library may not be the best spot if it requires you to leave to get food.

    - A

  1. luckyday

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Climacs only has 1/3 of a brain. Don't overestimate him.

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969



    $4 coffee for one hour of taking up a table? Before Internet, The table could be used by at least three parties within an hour, generating a lot more than $4 in revenue for the coffee shop.

  1. jvputten

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The Panera Bread Company near me limits the free internet access during peak times (e.g., weekend mornings) to 30 minutes. I don't know if this is the result they had in mind, but I go there much less than I used to, and never on the weekends.

  1. mrjohn

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Naidre's is a great spot -- for food -- but there's nothing new here. Naidre's has had WiFi limitations for a long time now, and for even longer, they've asked customers not to engage in long cell phone conversations. I agree with what Naidre's is trying to do -- create a nice environment for folks who want to come in and grab a bit to eat.

    It is a common problem with Brooklyn coffee shops/bakeries/cafes that laptop users are hogging all the tables.

    Root Hill, also in Brooklyn, has this problem. They have a laptop friendly policy, but weekend after weekend my girlfriend and I have walked in only to see no free tables -- they're all taken up by laptop users. Since we came to eat in, we have no choice but to walk out.

    Another problem spot is Baked. They have limited seating, and the best spots are about six 4-person booths. It is not uncommon to walk in and see 4 or 5 of the booths occupied by ONE PERSON and their laptop. Sheesh.

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