My brother sent me this article from the NYT about an internet cafe in NY called Alt.Coffee. Alt(dot) as it was often called was one of the first internet cafes in NYC opening in 1995 with a full T1. I started hanging out there when it first opened and I was a student at NYU. I traded my services helping people get on the computers and browse the World Wide Web for free access, web hosting and an email account, oh yeah, and all the coffee I could drink. After a year or so of that, I started working behind the bar making coffee.
On Saturday mornings, for a while, I taught a class “Introduction to the internet” where I explained how people could search the web, what hypertext was and the ins and outs of email and why people should not use America Online.
Alt.Coffee was the “third space” that Howard Shultz of Starbucks talks about. It was community, we had a little (dysfunctional) family there. Alt.coffee was the harbinger of a new era on Avenue A, and its closing represents another shift. Alt might have held on a few years longer than other businesses of the same era, the East Village has changes a lot on the last dozen years, from a sketchy neighborhood of empty store fronts, squats and drug addicts to an alcohol soaked playground for all manner of people that you probably would not have found on Avenue A in the years before Alt.
What will take the cafe’s place? A new cafe catering to the new locals owned by some old locals (the same people who opened and ran Alt.Coffee). I wish them luck and look forward to stopping in to Hopscotch next time I am back.
Note: I wrote my thesis about the gentrification of the Lower East Side. I also blogged about this story on GregoryHeller.com.