London’s first “pay-per-minute” café called Ziferblat was first opened almost a year ago by its Russian founders in the city’s hipster neighborhood. This trendy hangout provided city dwellers with free coffee and food. Customers just have to pay 3 pence (about 5 cents) for every minute spent inside the cafe.
Earlier this year the cafe almost faced eviction because of a lease dispute. The landlord believed that the “work space” he rented out to the business is being used as a “café.” The building holds a B1 lease, classified for offices and shared workspaces. The Ziferblat team turned to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to raise money to reopen at a new location. After speaking with city managers, lawyers, and landlords, Ziferblat was allowed to stay at its current location. Click play to listen to the report.
Team leader Sophie Grodin explained, “It’s not a café as many people may think. It’s more of a free space where people can come.” When visiting Ziferblat, patrons pay for the time, not the coffee. Grodin adds that customers act like “micro tenants” that pay for using the space. Inside the free space are freelancers working on laptops, students reading books, teams brainstorming on white boards, artists sketching while others are just chatting.
The headline “The best things in life are 3p: London’s first pay-per-minute café” was featured on Time Out London magazine in early January. Since then the BBC, The Guardian, and The Evening Standard have reported on Ziferblat, adopting the “pay-per-minute café” nickname. It’s difficult to describe the unique business project since there hasn’t been anything like it before. Ziferblat is a hybrid between a “work space” and “café.”
Grodin believes the free space exposes Londoners to meeting new people and collaborating with others from various walks of life. “Ziferblat creates these frames for a different way of behaving in a big city and with strangers.” New ideas and discussions can grow from a place like Ziferblat by providing Londoners with a setting to think and meet.
When customers visit Ziferblat today, they can engage in community poetry projects and art events. Ziferblat will be hitting the United States, launching a location in Brooklyn.