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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Torres Timbila

The Great Debate: More Cafés Are Banning Laptops

Updated: Oct 4, 2023


A sign outside the Black and Bloom café prohibiting laptops © Jennifer Torres Timbila

Studying at cafés is a common practice in the city of Groningen, however, café owners are getting particular with what they want in their establishments. In recent years, some have established a ‘no-laptop’ policy.


This rule has been applied not only at a regional level, but also at a national level. In several cafés in the Netherlands, laptops are no longer allowed, and some have gone as far as disabling free public Wi-Fi.


At Black & Bloom in Groningen, Wi-Fi is still available, but the owner, Gerry Engelkes, has a different view of how people should enjoy their time in cafés. “I started this place to be a coffee place, I don’t want it to be a workspace. If you come to work here, you don’t care about the coffee.”


Financial consequences


Besides wanting to create a space where people can interact without distraction, owners argue that customers with laptops tend to loiter and hog tables for hours times after buying the cheapest item on the menu.


“Sometimes someone orders a single espresso and sits there for hours stirring it, while sitting alone at a table for four. I also have to pay my bills: water, electricity, the Internet,” explains Gerry.


The Koffie Station, a café nearby the Harmony Building, established this policy almost a year ago after realizing that this pattern was repeated, and it was affecting its income. Unlike Black & Bloom, this rule is only applied from 11am until 16pm.


“It’s hard to calculate but it definitely does something to your margins. Every table need a certain turnover for us to be a profitable business,” says Derik, one of the employees.


Since then, Koffie Station has seen major changes. “It has become a lot better in here. People have started talking more and tables were busier. Not having laptops here creates more space,” he adds.

Koffee Station café in Groningen © Jennifer Torres Timbila

Understanding and debate


Alex, an employee of the café Masmas, understands the struggles that laptops can pose for businesses, but he also empathizes with the main targets of this policy: students.


“It’s hard enough being a student out here, there’s no space for you to be so if you could be at a homey environment and still use your laptop, I think that’s fair enough,” he tells The Groninger.


His opinion differs from the perspective of Nova, an employee of Coffee Company, one of the many study cafes in Groningen. “If the café is offering a nice establishment and services, I wouldn’t like people sitting there for hours without consuming anything.”


As expected, opinions among customers are also divided. “Some people understand, and some people don’t. It just takes a super mindset to see why we are doing something and if we are able to explain then usually it works,” states Derik.


The café owners’ problem is not with people and their technological advances. Café owners just want customers to understand that the ‘no-laptop’ policy is reinforced to increase their customer turn-over rate.

Black and Bloom café © Jennifer Torres Timbila

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