Fifteen of Arnhem’s local bars, restaurants and cafes will begin accepting bitcoin tomorrow, 28th May.
The Arnhem Bitcoinstad – or Bitcoincity – is a one-day event during which bitcoiners can pay for food and drink using their digital currency, and meet like-minded people looking to do the same. A bitcoin ATM will also be installed specially for the day in case folks need to reload their wallets.
Located roughly an hour and a half from Amsterdam, Arnhem is the capital of the Gelderland province in the east of the country.
This event is being organized by three bitcoin enthusiasts: Rogier Eijkelhof, Patrick van der Meijde and Annet de Boer. The friends already hold information sessions about bitcoin where they aim to explain the technology to people in a non-technical manner.
"We know there is a lot of misunderstanding among the mass audience," said Eijkelhof.
This was one of the reasons that Eijkelhof and his friends decided to put together the Arnhem Bitcoincity event.
They were also inspired by the Bitcoin Boulevard in The Hague and wanted to host something similar.
The trio got the ball rolling by trying to recruit participating businesses. Eijkelhof admitted that it was difficult to get participants on board at first:
"It was a challenge because there is a lot of scepticism about bitcoin. Once the first few [merchants] who were interested and open-minded about it said, 'Yes, let’s give it a try', and then we got some attention from the local media and other merchants noticed how it could lead to some positive attention and more people started joining in."
He added, "I think the most important thing that helped us convince merchants was just showing how easy it is [to accept bitcoin]."
Although the organisers in Arnhem have drawn inspiration from the Hague's Bitcoin Boulevard, Eijkelhof added that they have also learnt from the project's shortcomings:
"Maybe one of the things that didn’t go so well in the Hague was that they actually required the merchants to work with bitcoin itself. The merchants had to check the QR code and check the transaction on the block chain – that’s too complicated for most people."
The organisers in The Hague eventually sought out the help of Bit My Money's point-of-sale system to make the payment process simpler for the participants. However, it took them two months to bring a payment processer on board.
This is something that Eijkelhof and his co-organisers felt needed to happen right from the beginning. As a result, Eijkelhof built BitKasssa (Dutch for 'bitcoin checkout'), a payment system designed to make it easier for merchants to deal with bitcoin, he said, explaining:
"[Merchants] don’t have to actually mess with anything bitcoin-related themselves. The customer pays in bitcoin, they receive their amount in euros and it’s completely hassle free for them. Once they see how easy it is, they say, 'Sure I have nothing to lose.'"
Although tomorrow's event is a one-off, the organisers are hoping the participating merchants continue to accept the digital currency. "Several merchants already expressed their interest and intention to keep using bitcoin," says Eijkelhof.
"For others, it's a bit of an experiment and they'll want to find out how it works out for them, but I expect at least some of them will keep accepting bitcoin – especially once they witness first-hand how fast and easy it is."
Going Dutch with bitcoin
Though Arnhem’s Bitcoincity will be the second 'Bitcoin Boulevard' in the Netherlands, in other parts of the world, bitcoiners have tried to introduce similar projects, with varying degrees of success.
Last month, a group of Cleveland merchants came together to launch Bitcoin Boulevard US, however, the project saw a setback when the state of Ohio later revealed that bitcoin would be banned for use as payment in alcohol sales.
In comparison to other countries, the Netherlands has had very few regulatory hurdles. Eijkelhof says that the cultural attitude of the Dutch may be one reason why bitcoin has garnered a large following in the country.
"It's a cultural thing. We've always been doing a lot of trading and we have always been open to other cultures. Also when it comes to drug policy, homosexuality etc, Holland is known for it’s openness [...] We are ahead of most other countries in terms of acceptance and I think that helps with bitcoin as well."
Netherlands is also the country with the highest bitcoin nodes per capita.