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Some Local Café Owners Say Free Wi-Fi Drains Business

LOS ANGELES ( — Some local coffee shop owners say that offering free Wi-Fi to patrons has been draining their business.

It's a common sight around cafés: a person with a cup of coffee and an open laptop, staking out a table for hours, using the free Internet.

Mireya Jones, the owner of Jones Café in Pasadena, said she offered Wi-Fi until she realized customers were getting a little too comfortable with the amenities.

"One day I walked in and there was this woman setting up her nail salon, and she actually had scheduled people coming in and doing their nails. I was just aghast," she said.

Jones said the Wi-Fi added more stress to the business.

"After five hours…that was my cutting off point…they would get very entitled and kind of nasty," she said.

Jones said not giving people the free Internet hasn't hurt her sales. In fact, she said it adds to the café's ambiance.

"It's really important to allow some place still in the community where people can go and be people and communicate with one another," she said.

Linda Eskeland, however, a writer from Mar Vista, said she travels all over town in search of the perfect café to do some work on the Internet.

"It's a creative space," she said. "I like the sound, I like the coffee going."

Elrick Kane, the owner of Jumpcut Café in Studio City, caters to workers like Eskeland.

"If one table at some point is taken up by somebody who is spending much longer than normal, then be it," he said.

Kane said keeping his customers comfortable with free Wi-Fi is the way to go.

"That person could be checking into social media and saying, 'I'm working at Jumpcut Café today,' and suddenly, that's a plug for us," he said.

While large coffee chains, such as Starbucks and Peet's Coffee, also offer free unlimited connections, some are beginning to limit the web surfing during busy hours.

"The pro is if they're spending money, you want people to stay longer. The con is, if they're not spending money, you want them to get out," said Ira Kalb, a USC marketing professor.

Kalb said internet access or not, it's a new way of branding a business.

"It's getting their brand in front of more people, and if they make enough money from the items they're selling, it will pay for the Wi-Fi," he said.

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