My favorite lunch spot in Austin is a small cafe with a fresh, locally sourced menu. It’s a good thinking and writing place for me.
Recently, I was disappointed to learn that the restaurant blocked its public Wi-Fi network. They told me that they turned it off so that customers don’t linger.
What strange reasoning. Lingering customers are loyal customers. By disconnecting the internet, they are treating the lingerers as if they were loiterers. Loitering implies something lazy and mindless. Lingering – thoughtful, engaged, conversational – implies an environment so interesting that people take time out of their busy days to savor it.
It brought to mind our experience working with communities. Those that actively encourage lingering have healthier economies. Free downtown Wi-Fi, welcoming public spaces, and inclusive community dialogues are just a few of the ways that they foster lingering.
Lingering appeals to entrepreneurial, creative people, by the way. If you want more of these people in your community, look for what you can do to make your place a place where people want to stick around and connect with each other.
Don’t punish the lingerers by focusing on policies to deter the loiterers.