It is the home of the Dutch royals, international war tribunals and, seasonally, to masses of photo-taking tourists, but the Hague in the Netherlands will soon be a hotspot for bitcoin enthusiasts, too.
At 17:57 on 20th March – the precise start of spring in the Netherlands – all of the businesses along two canal-side streets in the city centre will start to accept bitcoin.
In all, nine restaurants and one art gallery will take part in the scheme.
Unofficially the two streets running along the canal – Bierkade and Groenewegje – will also change their name to 'Bitcoin Boulevard'.
The city of the Hague has been quick to jump on the project with the tourism office promoting the event and the city’s 'Night Mayor' – the official who looks after the city's nighttime activities – due to make the first bitcoin purchase at one of the restaurants.
Hendrik Jan Hilbolling, one of the three organisers behind the project, says he had the idea for Bitcoin Boulevard after convincing his friend, who runs a restaurant on the street, to accept bitcoin for payments.
He discussed the idea with two other bitcoin enthusiasts, Peter Klasen and Henk van Tijen, at a bitcoin meetup. The three then set out to convince all the remaining restaurants to throw away their preconceived ideas, ignore the bad news spinning out of the Mt. Gox implosion and start accepting a cryptocurrency that some of them had not even heard of.
With some it was a hard sell, but one after the other the restaurant owners started seeing the advantages of bitcoin – such as the low transaction costs, the ease of payment for international guests and the promotional value.
As Hilbolling pointed out:
“In the end, who doesn’t want to be a part of a Bitcoin Boulevard?”
Bitcoin happy hour
Bitcoin enthusiasts won’t find it hard to spend their digital coins on the streets: there is a Michelin-star restaurant, a beer hall with more than 160 beers on offer, a café and a vegetarian restaurant.
The M Restaurant will also be holding a daily bitcoin 'happy hour', when all guests paying with the digital currency will receive a discount.
People with a bit of extra bitcoin in their wallets can also buy photography, paintings and sculptures from internationally known contemporary artists at the art gallery West.
At this stage, the restaurants and the gallery will not be using a merchant service. Rather they will display the QR code of their wallet on the bar and do simple bitcoin transactions from wallet to wallet. Hilbolling said, however, that this might change as the project develops.
Initially the idea was to conduct a two-month trial, but the businesses have said that if things go well they continue with the Bitcoin Boulevard concept indefinitely.
'Not just for nerds'
The three organisers, who all have day jobs in the software sector, said that they will themselves not make any profits from the project. Instead, it has been a way for them to spread the word about bitcoin, get to know other bitcoin enthusiasts, and introduce the digital currency to the general public.
Henk van Tijen explained:
“This event is is not just for nerds like ourselves, but for the regular moms and pops, kids and students. The purpose is to make it for a more broad audience.”
To boost bitcoin spending there will be a competition held for the person that spends the most crypto-coin on the street and for the restaurant that has taken the most bitcoin payments. Both winners will be displayed on the Netherlands' largest advertising screen, which sits over a highway near the city.
So, if you want to have your mugshot on display to Dutch commuters, load up your digital wallet and book a trip to the Hague. Michelin-starred food and international beer await you.