CAPITOLA — Customers at the Quail & Thistle Tea Room in Capitola can now pay for their traditional scones and tea with bitcoin, making it the most recent to join a short list of local businesses that have decided to accept the controversial alternate digital currency.
“I see a lot of interesting possibilities with this notion of digital currency,” said Daniel Thorpe, who co-owns the small traditional tea house with his wife Cindy Fairhurst-Thorpe.
After running a weekend tea room from their home in Ben Lomond, they decided in January 2013 to expand into the historic Averon Carriage House, a 1890s building in Capitola that has been a tea room for more than 30 years. Along with the menu, which includes a California Country Tea with finger sandwiches, scones and chocolate covered strawberries, customers can enjoy free wireless internet connection while they’re buying a tea cozy from the shelf and pay for it in cryptocurrency. To date, no tea room customers have paid in bitcoin. It is just one of numerous charge cards and debit cards accepted by the restaurant. Cash is still accepted as well.
The Thorps’ decision to include the virtual money as payment comes at a time the currency is in the news almost daily. There has been mystery, confusion and uncertainty as two bitcoins banks — Mt. Gox in Japan and FlexCoin in Canada — have been forced to shut down in recent weeks due to security problems. The Wall Street Journal, however, reported that increasing numbers of governments, traditional financial institutions, investors and high profile business leaders are showing interest in bitcoin.
Thorpe, who lost about $4,000 in the Mt. Gox fallout, says he is still a fan and plans to host a fireside chat about it, along with a tea house dinner, on March 21. A self-described “local tech guru,” Thorpe says he wants to help the general public understand what the new cryptocurrency is all about and how to navigate security challenges.
“I’m not directly involved in it,” Thorpe said. “I’m on the sidelines, but cheering as we go.”
Several other early local adopters are accepting bitcoin in their business and beginning to educate others as well. Santa Cruz software engineer consultant Sean Gilligan, who is hoping to contribute soon to the opensource code for bitcoin, discussed the topic at a recent lunchtime gathering at NextSpace Santa Cruz.
“It allows people to exchange money in ways that they’ve never been able to do before,” Gilligan said. “It’s going to be particularly good for people who have been underserved by the financial system and will help ecommerce vendors find a better alternative to the credit card system.”
For example, migrant workers would be able to send money home without paying high costs of traditional wiring methods and businesses can halve their processing payments, he said.
“A big challenge for our society is to build computers and operating systems and mobile phones that we can trust,” Gilligan said. “That’s the fundamentally the challenge of bitcoin.”
Jim Keeler, owner and NorAm Auto Service in Soquel, a bitcoin investor, began accepting bitcoin about three months ago but hasn’t had any exchanges yet.
“I see a great future for bitcoin,” he said.
Sarah Blincoe, an Aptos photographer, is in the early stages of developing Bitcoin Beauties, which she describes as an educational startup to teach women about the currency. Women, she says, are often underrepresented in the world of finance.
“We’ve got well over 25 women that are part of it and more everyday,” Blincoe said. “I would predict multiple Santa Cruz businesses will be up and running with the ability to accept bitcoin in the next year.”
What: Software engineer Danny Thorpe will host a fireside chat and tea house dinner to discuss bitcoin.
Date: 6 p.m. Friday
Location: Quail & Thistle Tea Room, 911 Capitola Ave. Capitola.
Cost: $40, includes full dinner.
Tickets: Available at the teahouse or online at http://quailandthistle.com
• Sean Gilligan, software engineer consultant; visit firstname.lastname@example.org
• NorAm Auto Repair Service, 2651 S. Rodeo Gulch Road, Soquel; visithttp://www.noramautorepairservices.com or call 831-475-4328
• The Quail & Thistle Tea Room, 911-B Capitola Ave., Capitola; call 831-477-1798 or visithttp://quailandthistle.com
• Santa Cruz Shuttles; call 831-421-9883 or visit http://santacruzshuttles.com
• 880 IT Services LLC, 500 Soquel Ave., Suite E, Santa Cruz; call 831-469-3382 or visithttp://www.880itservices.com/
Source: http://coinmap.org and Sentinel research