An issue that must be addressed: Should coffeehouses offer free Wi-Fi?

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On page one of the Chicago Tribune:

“Some owners limit Web usage while others embrace unlimited access,” by Jonathan Bullington: “[S]ome owners … want to keep a welcoming atmosphere but also maintain the type of customer turnover necessary for a profitable business. Some coffee shop owners try to strike a balance by providing free Wi-Fi connections in two-hour windows, requiring patrons to make a purchase to get the Wi-Fi password. In some high-traffic Starbucks locations in New York City, managers have resorted to blocking access to electrical outlets , the idea being that laptop users will pick up and leave when their batteries run dry.”

I read this knowing that I pretty much have a reserved table at Kawha Coffee (South) in downtown St. Petersburg.  I work there, literally, all morning, sucking up their Wi-Fi while occupying prime real estate.

I can’t be good for business, right?

Well, I do spend at least five to ten dollars a day there, always buying something to drink and eat for breakfast and, often, something to nosh on for lunch (with a lemonade or apple juice mixed in there for good measure).  The irony is I really don’t enjoy coffee, but I do enjoy this coffeehouse.

A lot of local realpolitik is accomplished in this coffeehouse.  On Friday alone, County Commissioner Ken Welch sat down with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster here.  Nearby, political activists, like Darden Rice and Nadine Smith, were working (separately) on their respective projects.  Reporters from the block-away Times building, including John Fleming, Michael Kruse, Dan Ruth and Robert Trigaux, all dropped in at one point or another for a cup of joe.

There’s actually a Starbucks tucked in the St. Petersburg Hilton just a block away from here and it’s often empty because there isn’t the same vibe there as there is at Kawha. Because non-office workers like me take up shop here, this place is busier than the average coffee shop.

In other words, this place is a hotspot, and I’m not talking about the Wi-Fi.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.