Starting this weekend, if you're sitting in Cocoa Cinnamon's original Geer Street cafe, the wifi isn't being wonky, it's just turned off.
From 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays until the 10:30 p.m. closing, the internet is no longer welcome, the hope being laptops will be closed and stowed and the conversations turned up.
Cocoa Cinnamon announced the new policy on Twitter Wednesday, saying they want the coffee shop to have a more social vibe on weekend nights.
"We want our shops to be incredibly inviting, and we work really hard to make sure we do that," said Leon Grodski de Barrera in an interview. He co-owns Cocoa Cinnamon with his wife, Areli.
"The question is, what are coffee shops for? They were supposed to be places for open discourse."
These days, as much as single-origin pourovers and double espressos, coffee shops offer the white noise backdrop of quiet conversation, setting the scene for writers to work on their novels, students to slog through term papers and others to tackle their side-gig passion projects.
Leon Grodski de Barrera called it "humbling" to think of the work that's been done in his cafes, including best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote "Blink" and "Outliers" (though it's not clear what writing may have been done in Durham).
"Amazing things happen in our cafes on computers," Grodski de Barrera said. "For my shop to participate in works of thinking and poetry and philosophy blows my mind."
Turning off the routers, he said, is not a rejection, but a respite. But if someone needs to keep working, he suggested going to the newest and largest Cocoa Cinnamon in the Lakewood neighborhood.
"Geer Street is open 118 hours a week," he said. "We're turning off the internet for nine of those hours a week and trying to make it a more social time."
For more than a decade, one of the main criticisms of laptop ubiquity was the slow turnover, that a few hours of coffee shop real estate could be bought for a $5 latte (including gratuity). Some newer coffee shops around the country are cutting out the wifi altogether.
Liquid State on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh turns off its wifi every night after 5 p.m. Liquid State also serves beer and wine, and barista Whitney McCurry said the move helps protect alcohol sales in the evenings.
"We do it to advocate for our beer and wine sales and push away from the computer screen vibe you have in coffee shops today," McCurry said. "When people come in to have a drink and talk, and it's dead silent, it can be awkward."
It's a different business model at Cocoa Cinnamon, and Grodski de Barrera said the weekday wifi won't be touched. He just wants to see a few hours without the glow of laptops in the shop. Since the announcement he said the response has been mostly positive from customers.
"We all face the gadget challenge," he said "Gadgets have a use, but they start to take over."