Lion & Bright asks customers to close laptops in the evenings

“It’s not the place of sanctuary and leisure that we really want it to be.”

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Social media is buzzing since Lion & Bright Cafe Wine Bar announced its policy to be screen-free every evening. Signs on the cafe tables read: “Close your screens, meet your neighbours! Lion & Bright is now screen free after 5pm daily.”

Owner Sean Gallagher says the concept isn’t new—Lion & Bright has always aimed to shift from a workspace to a “social hub” in the evening—but in the past it hasn’t been clear or consistently enforced.

“If there’s somebody, say, walking by in the evening, they look in and they see a bunch of people working on their laptops, it conjures up this notion of stress in people’s lives,” says Gallagher. “It’s not the place of sanctuary and leisure that we really want it to be.”

Then there’s the issue of people “camping out” at tables with their laptops for an extended period of time, which also affects business.

Gallagher emphasizes evening bar-goers can still use their smartphones or come in by themselves to read a book. Working on your laptop is what’s (literally) off the table. He also points out that 7:30am until 5pm is “a decent stretch of time where we are generous with souped-up WiFi and cable service” for customers.

“We can see that we have a problem with campers, so we need to basically put our foot down and say, ‘Listen, this is our space. You wouldn’t do this in a regular restaurant.’ We’re a restaurant,” explains Gallagher. “So it’s just hard for people, I think, to understand that there’s a switch that happens.”

Although there’s been negative feedback, Gallagher says there’s been support as well—particularly from other local business owners. For now, the business is sticking with the policy.

“We’re listening, but we’re just kind of letting it ride out. We want to see what else comes out of it.”

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