A Cafe for People, not Laptops

Yesterday's mail brought my new issue of Vermont Life. Sure–it's a glossy mix of nostalgia and propaganda, but I always relish it. I also happen to think that Vermont is one of the few islands of sanity left in what's left of the United States.  

One small story caught my eye: August First, a small café in Burlington's south end decided to turn off the WiFi and ban laptops. Imagine the radicalism of such a move. Why the unmitigated gall of owners Jodi Whalen and Phil Merrick–expecting people to use their tables to consume food and converse instead as their own personal office space.

It was a risk in today's it's-all-about-me-and-it-should-be-free society. A risk, but a calculated one. How often have you walked out a café or restaurant in which there were no tables because about 75% of them were filled by a single pretentious hipster with a laptop and one cup of tepid coffee he had been nursing for the past three hours? It happened too often for Whalen and Merrick, a husband-wife team who actually have to make a living selling cups of Joe, pastries, and sandwiches. And guess what? When August First turned off the wireless, its sales went up by a whopping 20% in the first year. I've not been there, so maybe that's because they make really good muffins, but I think it had a lot to do with reclaiming the café as a public space instead of a private wombs for the wired and selfish.

I applaud August First and I sincerely hope this is the beginning of a trend. Many's the time I've walked out of a local favorite, Woodstar Café, upon seeing a laptopper per table. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to scream, "Get a room, ya' cheapskate @$#&*%^s." 

You can bet that I'll be at August First my next trip to Burlington. For those living nearby, please support Whalen and Merrick. August First is located at 149 South Champlain Street, open Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 5 pm and Saturday from 8 am to 3 pm. Here's the menu

Hooray for August First! Cafés of the world unite; you've only your freeloaders to lose.

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