A solution for coffee-shop time hogs: charge them by the minute

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
January 31, 2017 - 8:00am

KAMLOOPS — Despite the omnipresence of the Internet, public libraries continue to be an essential and well-used part of our communities. Indeed, they’re a bulwark against the 140-character universe.

More than just shelves full of books, they’re a community gathering place, where people can meet, listen, take a load off, and learn. The current quarters for the Kamloops Library downtown date only to 1998 but in keeping with the changing and expanding role of libraries, they’re in line for some needed renos.

The plan is for a re-jigging of space to re-enforce its role as a community hub. One of the ideas is to insert a coffee shop into the southeast corner of the Civic Building in which the library is located, complete with courtyard seating.

It’s an idea that is already garnering pro and con comments. In my view, it’s worthy of consideration. One of the benefits would be the creation of some positive activity at the library’s exterior; another would be expanding the attraction of the facility as a people place.

There are, of course, challenges with the idea, such as possible disruption to the traditional quiet, contemplative space of a library. Another would be the possibility that a coffee shop or café would simply become another place for people to park themselves while reading their library finds.

That’s an issue that isn’t unique to libraries; it happens with coffee shops everywhere. Who among us hasn’t gone into our favorite coffee shop and found that all the seats have been taken, including a good number by people hogging a chair or an entire table for hours as they read a novel, browse the Internet on their laptop, or even write vigorously in a journal?

There’s a coffee-shop etiquette that says thou shalt not monopolize a chair at 10 o’clock, lunch hour or 3 o’clock when others want to sit down with their lattes and decaf Americanos during coffee-shop busy time.

Yet, way too many people break the rule. A coffee shop in London has found a deterrent for table hogs — it charges by the hour.

The Ziferblat invites its guests to “Work, study, relax, explore, play, attend events, eat cake, have a brew” and “everywhere is free inside except the time you spend there.”

It charges six pence per minute (that’s about 10 cents) with a four-hour cap. Patrons pick up an alarm clock and put themselves on the timer when they arrive, and can read, play cards or board games or otherwise occupy themselves within the time limit.  They can even bring their dogs with them if they like.

Seems entirely civilized. It might be time for us in the Loops to borrow it from the British.

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