Wireless Restaurateurs Ponder Laptop Etiquette

marcel from top chef

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Yesterday Gawker lamented, “How sad and kind of pathetic is it that coffee shops and even bars have been taken over by computers and their zombie-eyed owners?” This got us wondering about the extent to which Wi-Fi–equipped restaurants welcome laptop users, so we rang up a few of them.

Yann de Rochefort, owner of Boqueria, says he sees a computer there every day, but it’s usually during the afternoon when there’s no demand for the table. “If someone broke out a laptop on Saturday, we’d probably tell them we need the table.” At Brasserie 44 and Lure Fishbar, owner John McDonald restricts lunchers to a twenty-minute window of postprandial computing, but only if there's a rush. “Lunch is over at 2:30 p.m. — unless they’re there at 6:30 p.m., there’s no reason to force them out.”

The little owl doesn't get many computer-heads, says proprietor Joey Campanaro. “The laptop is probably bigger than some of the tables here,” he tells us. He doesn’t advertise his Wi-Fi connection, but it is useful — once a diner had to change his travel plans at the table, and another time a blogger needed to file a report about Chumley’s from his restaurant. (Which raises the question, do restaurants like Morandi let bloggers like Eater park there, hoping to get some love in return?) But what if someone did treat the place like a computer lab? “If it got really annoying,” Campanaro says, “I’d bring it to their attention and say, ‘What do you want to do here? Do you want to sit here for four hours and ruin my night? You have every right to, but…’ I’d leave it to them to make the decision.”

Brian Matzkow, owner of Sapa, points out that wireless connections aren’t just for laptop users: He says people like to share YouTube clips and Websites on their iPhones (it’s true! We got turned on to Weng Weng at Elettaria), although he does see diners bust out laptops during casual happy-hour meetings. Luckily, his restaurant is big enough that he can separate business diners from daters — “If we see they’re going to have a business meeting, we’ll put them in different areas.” The nice thing about having wireless communication? “I can't remember the last time I’ve seen someone having a phone conversation in the restaurant.”

Related: What's the Proper Laptop-in-a-Coffeeshop Etiquette? [Gawker]