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Taking away electronic barriers

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Cheers to Sal Bednarz, the owner of a cafe in North Oakland, California. I hope what he has done at his cafe catches on.

It's amazing, in a way, that what Bednarz has done has gotten so much attention, but maybe the more attention he gets, the more widespread the practice will become. Quite simply, he has asked the patrons of his cafe to unplug the laptops -- or better yet, leave them at home, at least just for one day. He's asked that patrons of his cafe go "unplugged" from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, in hopes that people may actually interact with one another, instead of hiding behind their laptops and other such devices.

Why is he doing it? Well, as he told a San Francisco paper, "When we opened this place we wanted to create a community. Instead it's just been a room full of laptops."

Even worse, for someone trying to earn a living by operating a cafe, the story points out, is to discourage the practice by patrons of "buying a $2 cup of coffee and spending all day using a table that could be taken by a customer purchasing lunch, visiting with friends or otherwise spending money and then leaving." That's why even the cafes that haven't instituted "unplugged" days now charge for wireless access or give wireless passwords that expire after an hour.

Another North Oakland cafe -- which billed itself as an Internet cafe when it opened -- has reduced its electrical outlets to just one, and it's had a positive impact on the vibe of the place.

"Chatting is now starting to overcome the keystrokes," said Ricardo Moran, manager at the Nomad Cafe. "It's really changed the feeling of the place. It's really nice."

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by James Scalzitti published on February 7, 2010 4:16 AM.

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