Hidden from the prying eyes of the public, a new basement pub has set up shop in the heart of Tech City, East London. And as befits London’s hub for digital innovation, you can pay for your beer with bitcoin.
The pop-up is run by Justina Cruickshank, who began the business after getting bored with the limited range of beers that you find in normal pubs. But beer isn’t the only thing on her mind: she wants bitcoin to be more widely adopted and has ideas about how to make it easier for businesses to use.
“The next thing for bitcoin is having an app that checks you into bitcoin businesses so you don’t even have to send to a wallet or scan a QR code,” she says.
“The PayPal app works like this and it would be great to see something for bitcoin that had similar or better functionality.”
Craft Beer Social Club’s first outing was in Hackney in September 2013. The current location on Leonard Street, which runs until 8 March, is the first time Cruickshank has accepted bitcoin.
One of her biggest concerns was whether or not her usual customers would have any idea what bitcoin was and if it might put them off. She says that “misinformation” and “scaremongering” in the mainstream reporting of bitcoin has confused people about the digital currency.
“I’d just like the right information to be published in the mainstream [media] so people can understand what it is,” she says, comparing the current situation with online gambling, an industry she previously worked in and “which has similiar issues with acceptance, misinformation and regulatory challenges.”
She’s keen for the currency to go mainstream, partly for self-interested reasons: “For bitcoin to be more lucrative for me, the currency has to go mainstream.”
But she also wants more people to be able to reap the benefits of using bitcoin. Until now the bitcoin community has been too insular, she claims:
“There is a great active community of bitcoin supporters, but it’s tiny […] It appears, to many, to be the preserve of the tech world. I don’t see it like that, we should all have the opportunity to enjoy innovation.”
Prior to launching on 6 February, Justina offered a discount for advance purchases via bitcoin and PayPal. Around a third of the advance purchases were made with bitcoin. As well as using BitPay, she also allows people to pay directly to a wallet. Accepting bitcoin is “about offering more choice” she says.
Her advice to other businesses thinking about accepting bitcoin is to “forget the mainstream press” and read specialist bitcoin sites. More straightforwardly, she says, look up some businesses that already accept bitcoin: “give them a call, have a chat about their experiences.”
Maybe even sit down and have a beer with them.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.
The Craft Beer Social Club is at 87 Leonard Street until 8 March. Find more details at thecraftbeersocialclub.co.uk