Two months after its launch, the world’s first Bitcoin Boulevard in The Hague is still attracting users of the digital currency keen to use their funds in the real world.
Bitcoin enthusiasts from within the Netherlands and the world over have travelled to the Dutch city to spend their digital money on delicious meals or chilled beers.
So, it’s no wonder that Kadhim Shubber and I ended up there when the CoinDesk team was in the country for Bitcoin2014 on 16th to 17th April.
The Bitcoin Boulevard is a project started by Hendrik Jan Hilbolling and Peter Klasen who convinced 10 merchants – many of them their friends – along one canal in The Hague to start accepting bitcoin.
On 20th March, the businesses on the two streets running along the canal in the city – Bierkade and Groenewegje – started accepting bitcoin. The original Bitcoin Boulevard comprised of nine restaurants and an art gallery.
Many of the participating merchants were new to bitcoin, but Hilbolling and Klasen explained the many benefits of accepting bitcoin.
Along with the fact that they would be attracting new customers and gaining publicity, Klasen said he told them that it would be an important statement for the city, explaining:
“If they would accept bitcoin, it would be a statement for the city or the nation. That statement would be that we are open for new technology.”
During the two months that the programme has been up and running, it has garnered media attention from all over the world.
However, merchants have also expressed some annoyance with the procedures surrounding the acceptance of bitcoin into their personal wallets.
Then life got a little simpler for some of the merchants, when Bit My Money‘s Robert-Reinder Nederhoed started introducing his company’s new point-of-sale system on the boulevard.
Nederhoed explained why Klasen and Hilbolling sought out his help:
“With the price drop […] the merchants asked the organisation to come up with a better solution.”
Bit My Money’s interface made it not only easier for shops and restaurants to accept bitcoin, but it also reduced the risk of dealing with the volatility of the digital currency.
“They get a proof of payment immediately and we take the risk,” said Nederheoed. “They get a signal that it has been paid. They get the exact amount at the end of the week […] there is no risk of fluctuation.”
He has visited more than half of the businesses already and installed the Bit My Money POS system in two stores so far.
Other cities follow suit
Klasen and Hilbolling told us that bitcoiners from other cities in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, have reached out to them because they want to set up their own Bitcoin Boulevards.
Arnhem, a city closer to the German border, is hosting Arnhem Bitcoincity on 28th May, during which many of the city’s restaurants and cafes will be accepting bitcoin for the day.