Vancouver coffee shop tells customers to leave their laptops at home on weekends

Some Vancouver coffee shops want to ban the use of laptops altogether. Dreamstime

It’s a sight as common as a foaming cappuccino in nearly every Vancouver coffee shop: people setting up their laptops and staying for hours on end, often from open to close.

Downtown-based Musette Caffe wants to buck that trend, imposing a laptop ban during weekend hours in order to free up space on their busiest days.

“Especially on the lunch rush and whatnot, we were having trouble seating people and we’d have people wander around with food trying to find a place to sit,” manager Colter Jones said.

“Especially in a quick service [environment], it’s important to have space available.”

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The cafe on Burrard and Harwood streets caters to both professional and recreational cycling, which Jones said fosters a community that appreciates open conversation and interaction, which the laptop policy only strengthens.

“We’re trying to encourage people to talk to each other again and have a nicer environment on the weekend,” he said.

“There would be just a sea of laptop screens in here and no one talking to each other [before the ban]. It would be very quiet and would actually scare some people away.”

The policy, which just wrapped up its second weekend, also limits WiFi internet access to a half hour per customer, and only with purchase of a product. Staff say they’re willing to give exceptions if business is slow, but add if it picks back up again, the free ride will end.

READ MORE: Toronto café bans laptops, tablets during afternoon periods on weekends and holidays

Musette’s policy follows similar crackdowns on so-called “laptop loiterers” in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Those cities are home to multiple coffee shops that banned laptops not just on weekends, but also holidays and even during afternoon hours. Some have even plugged their wall outlets to prevent people from charging their devices.

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Cafes in the U.K., Denmark and other parts of Europe have also made efforts to remove modern technology from their tables, with most getting widespread support.

Two weeks into the new policy, Jones with Musette said he’s already seen a difference, with business up and more people getting a chance to sit down.

Other shops in Vancouver are also taking notice, and are looking to Musette for guidance.

“A lot of cafes have asked us how our WiFi policy is going, just because they have the same problem on the weekends,” Jones said. “It’s just a sea of laptops and people making the cafe their office.”

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And while most customers are liking the policy and the change in atmosphere it’s brought, some have naturally taken offense, saying they’ll take their business elsewhere.

That’s just fine with Jones, although he’s a little worried about what will happen when they find a cafe that lets them plug in.

“We have a couple of upset customers, and unfortunately the ones with laptops are the ones who also write reviews online.”

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