Screen Free Cafés in Kingston

Juniper Cafe, Crave, coffee shops, cafes, screens, technology, laptops, OntarioIn this age of technology, where almost everyone is walking around with access to the answer to any question, and the ability to connect to their friends and family all over the world right in their pocket, it is very common to walk into your average coffee shop, bakery and sometimes even restaurant, to find people with a screen in front of their face. Whether it is a cell phone used for texting, Skyping or sending an email; or a laptop or tablet being used to do research or write a paper, many people set up shop in local establishments, log into the wifi and get down to the task at hand.

Many cafés in Kingston welcome this use of their space. It’s not uncommon to see just about every table being used this way at a local Starbucks or even Tim Horton’s these days. Local shops like Crave Coffee House and Bakery have made it their mission to make their seating as accessible as possible to those looking to plug in and get to work. However, this can be a problem too. Far too often we see people taking over valuable real estate for hours at a time, while purchasing only one coffee or snack. This can’t be overly profitable for these businesses, and it certainly makes finding a seat for other customers difficult.

Last week, Juniper Café, the delicious waterfront establishment located in the bottom of the Tett Centre, announced a new policy: “Screen Free lunch time”. According to new signage in the café, this means no laptops between 11am and 2pm (nothing is mentioned specifically about cell phones or tablets, but the use of the word “screen” suggests that they are also included in the ban). The cafe explained their reasoning in a Facebook post stating:

It has always been our goal at the cafe to have a space for people to come, gather, and enjoy the food & views.

We designed the cafe to have no outlets or WiFi etc.

We are happy for our customers to come in and work on their laptops during the other hours of the day but we’re really trying to create a space for our clientele to come in, enjoy a great cup of coffee, a thoughtfully made sandwich and time with good company.

A business has every right to set their own policies and in this case, they make a great argument for taking the time to unplug and connect with your surroundings and the people around you – not to mention they do have one of the best views in Kingston. However, the post has been met with a lot of backlash as well. Those who work in the building, or across the way at The Isabel, feel the policy limits their ability to work through lunch. One commenter on the post stated:

I would rather not have a stranger decide for me whether I can enjoy food or company and use electronics at the same time….I’m old enough to decide for myself, thanks.

At the same time, many have embraced the policy, happy to know that lunchtime visitors won’t be left standing by those monopolizing tables, and denying access to others.

This idea of limiting how customers use a café isn’t new. On last check, Sipps Coffee and Dessert Bar had a one hour or less policy on weekends. They also limit seating to 2 people per table (I had a librarian with the same rule in high school…). Whether this policy is still in place is uncertain as it turned this sipper off, and I haven’t been back. Small Batch Café and Eatery and Balzac’s Coffee Roasters both welcome laptop users, but encourage table sharing during peak times. They also have designated laptop and non-laptop sections.

So, considering the various points of view on laptop use in public establishments and how some of our local businesses choose to handle it, this week we want to know:

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This is a tricky question with lots of variables. While cafés most definitely want our business, they have to find a balance that keeps people from loitering and taking up space that other customers could also enjoy. That being said, some people who do treat these establishments as their personal office also spend a good deal of money while they do so – not everyone is a one cup loafer. What is your experience with screens in cafés? Are you someone who sets up shop and stays for a hours, or are you a customer who can’t find a place to sit because of those people? Or, maybe you’re a shop owner. We’d love to hear from all of you. Drop off your comments below.

Thanks to Megan Hamilton for today’s photo.

Danielle Lennon

Danielle Lennon is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. She was the Editor, Community Event Coordinator and Contributor at-large (2008-2018). She is otherwise employed as a section violinist with the Kingston Symphony, violin teacher, studio musician and cat lover. Learn more about Danielle...

One thought on “Screen Free Cafés in Kingston

  • I do hate walking into a cafe and seeing 8 of the 10 tables taken up by one person on a laptop, effectively taking up at least two or often four seats. If those people truly don’t mind if other people sit down at the other seats then that is what they themselves should do. When they walk in they should look for any tables with laptop users already tapping away and sit with them. You never know, they might end up giving each other business or making friends. I’m def with Sipps on this one! Kimberly

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