Beginning on 1st May, a group of businesses in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, will begin accepting bitcoins for payment as part of a project dubbed ‘Bitcoin Boulevard US’.
Nikhil Chand, founder of CoinNEO, a bitcoin consultancy based in Cleveland Heights, is orchestrating the launch of Bitcoin Boulevard US. He told CoinDesk that the project aims to highlight the positive business aspects of digital currency. Said Chand:
“There’s an opportunity here […] for businesses to really make a statement about digital payments, mobile payments, electronic payments, increasing their margins [and] lowering fees.”
Chand also stressed the benefits the project would have for the local community, stating:
“There’s a global awareness around bitcoin, and if I can help my community with brand awareness through brand awareness, that becomes a social experiment as well.
Bitcoin Boulevard US is styled after a similar initiative to take place in the Netherlands this May.
Bitcoin acceptance from the ground up
CoinNEO helped The Wine Spot, a local wine and beer store in Cleveland Heights, integrate bitcoin payments in February.
So far, he has confirmed eight businesses for the 1st May launch, with more expressing interest.
Part of the process of getting Bitcoin Boulevard US off the ground has been communicating with state regulatory agencies in Ohio, including the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Division of Liquor Control.
As several participant merchants run bars, maintaining lines of communications with license-issuing agencies was a major focus for Chand. He cited a lack of information among some regulators, but noted that the response has been cautiously positive overall.
Chand said that he expected a level of misunderstanding because there are no legal provisions regarding bitcoin and other digital currencies.
He added that state agencies have been receptive overall and that the process has been an important one for the future of digital currency adoption.
“We’re working very closely, and I think we’re having some very pioneering talks with state regulatory agencies around the topic of bitcoin payments processing.”
Merchants positive ahead of 1st May launch
Doug Katz, owner of The Katz Club Diner, told CoinDesk that the project grew out of the local business community’s already strong ties. He said discussions among other owners in the area began after The Wine Spot’s integration.
After 8, discover the bar car…fresh oysters & shrimp, snacks & craft cocktails, something a bit clandestine… pic.twitter.com/u5MJHInvt3
— The Katz Club Diner (@KatzClubDiner) June 12, 2013
Katz added that he believes other businesses in the area will begin accepting bitcoins as a form of payment in the future.
“I think what’ll happen is, other merchants in our community will start taking [bitcoin] as well. So, if it kicks off and offers promotion for us, and other people learn about, other people will start taking it.
Chris Armington, owner the Tavern Company, told CoinDesk that he hopes the idea creates more interest in the Lee Street community. As a business owner, he said the transaction process was easy and that the cost reduction could be “huge”.
“If everybody uses it and it was 1% [transaction fees], merchants would save a ton of money.”
Adam Fleischer, owner of The Wine Spot, said in an interview that Bitcoin Boulevard US is a boon for both consumers and merchants.
“From a consumers perspective, customers seem to be happy and appreciative to be able to spend their bitcoins at a brick-and-mortar business. From a merchants perspective, if you want to be innovative, and on the forefront, plus have fun with something that may be the next big wave…why not?”
Business views on bitcoin take shape in US
Small businesses in the United States are slowly but surely coming around to the idea of accepting bitcoins as a form of payment.
Recently, several business owners spoke with CoinDesk about their experiences following bitcoin payments integration. They cited what some Lee Road merchants told CoinDesk – that bitcoin acceptance has opened doors to new customers who might not have visited otherwise.
As more small businesses embrace bitcoin, Congressional lawmakers have begun exploring the implications for merchants that use digital currencies. Last month, the US House of Representatives committee on small business held a hearing on the benefits and risks for companies that get involved with bitcoin.
For more on that hearing, read our full report.
Images via The Wine Spot and Bitcoin Boulevard US