Coffee shops limiting laptop users


For we e-bedouins, workers who use the local coffee shop as their office for the price of a cafe americano, an article in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) is bad news: some shops are beginning to crack down on such encampments.

After watching people hog a four-top for an entire afternoon conducting interviews and sucking up the shop's bandwidth, I'm not surprised. (And yes, that means I too was there the entire afternoon, sucking up bandwidth. Ironic, eh?)

Apparently, the nascent move is spreading in New York City, and it's bound to at least call the question to the mind of many shop managers.

Some independent shops have also outlawed laptops after 8 p.m. on the weekend, while others ban them altogether. A common tactic employed by the more subtle managers is to plug the electrical outlets, limiting freeloaders to the duration of their battery.

Open seating is not the only goal, though. A coffee house is much more appealing to the general public when people are gathered in conversation, not sitting alone and transfixed, headphones on, staring at a screen.

The hours when I usually abuse my privilege at my shop of choice, Crimson Cup, early afternoon, aren't busy and there are almost always open tables and chairs. If not, I leave.

Nonetheless, I've always thought the deal was too good to last; two hours of free high-speed Internet, a comfortable chair in pleasant surroundings, and a great cup of java, all for $2.30. I have the feeling the days of such merchant generosity are numbered.