Successful cafes with a no-laptop/no-iPad policy?
September 12, 2014 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Are there any cafes out there in the wild that have survived (or better, thrived) with a strictly enforced no-laptop, no-iPad (essentially, "no portable electronic offices") policy? I'm looking for reasonably well-documented examples of coffee houses that have bucked the student/mobile-office market and done well. The more it's presented as a business case, the better.
posted by Shepherd to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Guardian recently had an article about one such cafe, August First. There are some basic financials in the article.
posted by JackBurden at 2:13 PM on September 12, 2014

Best answer: There was an article in the DC City Paper about cafes with no wifi/laptop policies a few years ago. One of the cafes mentioned, Qualia, is close to my home and still going strong (I don't know the status of the others but I would imagine it's the same). From the article: Today, Qualia bans laptops in the downstairs half of the café from noon to four on the weekends, though patrons can still access free Wi-Fi in the upstairs portion The last weekend of the month is completely Wi-Fi free.
posted by troika at 2:23 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I only noticed yesterday but Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden, has a no electronic devices policy. Though mainly due to the tiny communal seating area.

I've never seen anyone on a device in any of their outlets either, though I don't know whether it's an official company policy as much as the social conditioning of customers to focus on the coffee or the fact they're usually so packed and the turn over for space so great people don't get a chance to think about it!
posted by Middlemarch at 2:28 PM on September 12, 2014

Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill, MC makes you pay for wifi in 2014, which isn't that different I don't think.
posted by oceanjesse at 2:42 PM on September 12, 2014

Best answer: Smaller end of things, but Lulu's in New Haven, CT. This is in a neighborhood filled with grad students, but they only have 4 tables.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 2:48 PM on September 12, 2014

Came here to mention August First, glad to see someone already has. It might be telling that I rarely actually eat there, though, I'm usually getting their (spectacular) pastries to go.
posted by Itaxpica at 2:50 PM on September 12, 2014

Best answer: To clarify, I suspect it works for August First because their baked goods are excellent (and are widely known as such), so people go specifically for them, and that business more than makes up for the loss of business from people who aren't going because there's no WiFi. A cafe that doesn't have the same kind of reputation for quality might have a lot of its clientele be there as a place to do work rather than as a place to buy food, and thus not allowing devices could do be a net negative if it drives those people away.
posted by Itaxpica at 3:02 PM on September 12, 2014

Best answer: Mishka's, a popular cafe in the college town of Davis, California, has a strictly-enforced "The Rule" zone that meets your criteria.
posted by aniola at 3:10 PM on September 12, 2014

Best answer: I don't know of too many places that have 'no electronics policies, but I know a pretty healthy chunk that make it difficult to use said devices. Fourbarrel Coffee does not provide wifi, or outlets. I've known folks who worked there, and rumor has it they use other passive measures to deaden cell and wireless signals inside the cafe. They're very successful, and this is notable because…well, they're in San Francisco, and they're taking a not so subtle anti-technology bent.

In Portland a pretty successful shop/mini-chain Barista, does not offer wifi nor have outlets. I know nothing of other passive anti-wifi measures however. Coava Coffee also does not have wifi at either of their locales.

All three of these are mentioned only because they're notably successful. They don't have quite the same level of rules that you might be looking for, but none of them make using a device for any length of time easy.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:17 PM on September 12, 2014

Best answer: One Thunderbird Coffee location covered up all of their electrical outlets. They also only turn on wifi during certain parts of the day. They didn't ban devices completely, just made them harder to use. They are still always packed.
posted by tofu_crouton at 3:22 PM on September 12, 2014

This isn't full time, but a cafe in Oakland, Actual Cafe has a no laptops on weekends policy and I think that it works pretty well and is a fabulous idea.
posted by ruhroh at 4:32 PM on September 12, 2014

Best answer: Cafe Grumpy (of Girls fame) has a no laptop policy. At least the one in Chelsea I used to frequent did. I think iPads were okay, though? I also haven't been there in a few years, so maybe that changed. To summarize - Cafe Grumpy...kind of...maybe.
posted by Jego at 5:18 PM on September 12, 2014

Best answer: No computers etc are allowed at the amazing cafe Le Loire dans la Theiere in Paris.
posted by hazyjane at 11:45 PM on September 12, 2014

Trouble on Judah street in San Francisco has a notable lack of electronics but I think most of it has to do with being so small. That said, they have a sign at their door banning photography which personally discouragers me from even taking out my phone.
I'd say they are thriving, there is always a crowd there every time I make my yearly pilgrimage to visit my parents. And their cinnamon toast is delicious. Yeah, you can read about them online as they are cited in relation to the "new hipster craze:toast" thing. (It's really yummy though!)
posted by like_neon at 1:27 AM on September 13, 2014

I don't know if this would help as documentation as it's more on the toast angle but it's still a good read.
posted by like_neon at 1:37 AM on September 13, 2014

The Barn in Berlin has bans on prams and and possibly too much noise. They seem to do pretty well.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 8:01 AM on September 13, 2014

Victrola in Seattle turns theirs off after business hours.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:08 AM on September 13, 2014

Best answer: Bis.Co.Latte has such a policy (strictly enforced, as well). They've gotten through the negative Yelp response and made it through to the other side and are doing very well.
posted by yellowcandy at 3:42 PM on September 13, 2014

Best answer: I've been to Mishka's. Last time I went in (might have changed, I haven't been by the place for like a year), The Rule is only enforced on the front four tables. The rest of the place is covered in laptops and you can rarely get a table, which is why I don't go there. (The emptiest I've ever seen the place was during a power outage and it was still 3/4 full.) I kinda don't think it totally counts for your entry, even though like aniola, it was the one idea that came to mind to mention. I do recall we briefly had a cafe in town that banned laptops entirely and didn't last long.

I've seen people sitting at the empty "just for drinking your tea and reading the newspaper" ONCE, and that was when I was attempting to have a live writing group with notepaper and neither of us brought laptops so we qualified. Otherwise they've been the only tables not being used while I was there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:31 PM on September 13, 2014

I sat in the tea/newspaper section once and listened to someone do a full interview with an expert on whiskey.
posted by aniola at 1:51 PM on May 1, 2015

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