I wrote the first of these stories two years ago about cafes turning off Wi-Fi or changing their model after being deluged with barely- or non-paying laptop table campers: The latest installment looks at a few places in New York, where store owners are a little more than frustrated. Waltz-Astoria is charging $2 per hour for Wi-Fi or electricity, offering it free to regulars who sign up for their email newsletter. The Roebling Tea Room and another shop, Aroma, have covered their electrical outlets. Aroma shuts down Wi-Fi during lunch.
These campers spend from $0 to $3, stay as long as eight hours, and occupy tables for four with their lonesome, and use a few pennies or more of electricity, to boot! Now, they're a subset of all cafe laptop users. Myself, I'm often in some venue for an hour or two, spending $3 to $5, and taking the smallest possible footprint. It only takes a few bad apples, though.
My early story--tipped by a colleague who spotted the trend--covered Victrola here in Seattle. My editor back then asked, Is this a trend? Or is it just a few places? I said that I was pretty sure it was not a trend, but it was an interesting development that was likely to spread slightly as cafes, looking for an option, heard about the idea. Once you install Wi-Fi, it's weird to turn it off or change the terms of access; with a peer group of other owners, even those you don't know, it may be easier to modify what you're offering. [Link via Craig Plunkett]