Thursday, March 18, 2010

life goes on, and we build more stuff

Until just about an hour ago, I hadn't been keeping up with online comments to the blog (or anywhere else) lately - I've been busy actually running the Cafe. We hired a couple new folks (stop by and say hello to Rosy and Even), and are hiring more again. Business continues to grow, and the addition of new events (game nights on Sundays, craft nights on Thursdays), along with our Wednesday movies and First Friday parties isn't hurting. Inside the Cafe, it feels like we're doing all the right things.

But then, I did read the comments. And there are still a lot of people posting who don't like what we're doing. And I guess that's how it will be.

I'm still surprised at the vehemence of people who think that they have the right to have unfettered network access and a seat for as long as they want it for nothing more than the price of a cup of tea. They don't. Cafes are for-profit businesses, and will make decisions about the services they provide to their customers at least partly based on their revenue impacts. If I thought I'd make a lot more money by catering directly to laptop users, I might install more outlets, put in a faster internet connection, add printers, sell subscription wifi - whatever. Lots of Cafes do this already. Instead, I made a different decision, by limiting the available outlets, and restricting laptop use on the weekends to try to create another kind of environment. I believed that there were enough people who would appreciate this to support the business. This was done consciously, and is achieving the desired effect. If it weren't, I'd change it.

Enough dead-horsing. I don't want the entire online conversation about the Cafe to be about our laptop policy. It feels like time to move on to some other things. are some other things:

We just finalized the calendar for our next art show. On April 2 (the first Friday in April), we'll be having a little party for the opening of Dave Glass's exhibit titled 'Oakland: Study in Contradiction'. for more on that. Great photos from Oakland in the 70s and 80s, along with great music, etc.

We're launching our craft night THIS VERY NIGHT! I asked customers and fans what sort of activities they'd like to see in the Cafe, and got lots of great suggestions. Craft night is the one that I got from the most people, and the one that people went out of their way to track me down and talk to me about. So, it's on. Come check it out. I'd like to add some workshoppy-sorta things as we go forward, so if you're interested in teaching or participating in a particular workshop, let us know. We'll do our best to accomodate.

We're also starting to think pretty hard about doing music on a more frequent basis than just monthly. This is a bit challenging for us because of the layout of the space, but we'll figure something out. If you're playing music or want to recommend someone to play here, please tell us so.

We're also shifting our menu out of winter things and into spring ones. We've got a really delicious roasted asparagus soup on today, and have swapped out strawberries for pears in our fruit palette. We're experimenting with more syrups, and have turned out pretty great cucumber and mint ones this week. We're also making fresh limeade along with our fresh lemonade.

I've also been noodling on extending our hours on Monday and Tuesday (and maybe Sunday too), now that the sun is up a bit later. Stay tuned for more.

And, we'll be a morning energizer station for EBBC's Bike to Work Day:

Speaking of which - now that all you cyclists are out on the roads in the nice weather, stop by and say 'hello'. Maybe I'll actually see you out on the road someday soon.

Gotta run and pay the bills.


Monday, March 1, 2010

laptop-free weekends. for good and for real.

I'm thrilled to announce that our laptop-free weekend experiment, while not without it's bumps, has been on the whole, a huge success, and that we'll be keeping weekends at the Cafe laptop-free indefinitely. The Cafe has become a different (I think nicer) place on the weekends, and many people have told me that they go out of their way to come here on the weekend because of this policy.

To see the reasons why we're doing this, check out my original post on the topic.

We'll be making more prominent mention of this on the website and also making some better permanent signage to prevent folks from getting surprised on the weekends when they take their laptops out and I come visit (which has happened a few times, I'm sorry to say).

I had a couple people suggest that we just turn off the wifi on weekends, rather than restrict laptops. I don't think this achieves the same effect, and so we won't be trying it at the moment. I am sympathetic to people who need to work on their laptops on the weekend, but it's not what we're trying to do here.

I'm also really happy that Sunday game nights have been going really well, and that we intend to make these a permanent feature of the Cafe. Folks have been bringing their own games, as well as playing the (not tiny) assortment we've got here. People are playing with their own friends, as well as with people they don't even know. Which is cool, right?

And there have been unicycles.

We're looking for another activity for Saturday nights. I'm open to suggestions. Ideally, it would involve some interactive component, rather than just passive participation. Cause that's how we do here at Actual.

And, btw - don't miss our new opening this Friday. Just like every first Friday, it will be a party. Great local photography by Eva Silverman, along with her WPA-style illustrations, and a slideshow of photos that she inherited from her father, taken in Chicago, Brooklyn and NJ mostly in the 70s. DJs Oze and Kid Frostbite. Live music by Loretta Lynch.


Making waves on San Pablo since 2009...