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Laptoppers slowly realize there's a huge new wifi cafe in town

There's a big, new WiFi-friendly cafe in town.

In a city with a less ambivalent relationship with its cafe patrons this would not be news.

In cafe cities, from Paris to Astana, from Sofia to Calcutta, there is an understanding that a significant part of a cafe's natural clientele are lingerers, people who read, talk, meet people, and even use a laptop in a cafe, outsourcing their own living room to the city at large, choosing to live in public, in the city, rather than holed up in private property.

Toronto didn't have cafes by any regular definition of the term until recently. It had coffee shops and doughnut shops. Perhaps as a result, the notion of lingering in public became associated with indigence, which has given cafe owners the idea that it's OK to hustle people along.

Many cafes have done this in various ways over the years, by posting notices with time limits, but offering free WiFi, but only for 30 minutes and, most recently, by covering over electrical outlets to ward off people with electrical devices, telling them they should be in an office, or at home, or anywhere other than in the cafe.

It's an odd way to treat your natural clientele.

But Stone Yu, son of the family that owns two cafe bakeries in Markham and Richmond Hill, figured it might be a good idea to be inviting, rather than censorious. Hence, the new 6,400 square foot Lucullus on Elm Street.

Downstairs, there are Chinese buns and other baked and prepared foods starting at about $1.60. There are a couple of tables up front, and an outlet or two. But it's upstairs that should gladden the hearts of residents-in-public space city-wide.

"The second floor is designed as a space to relax," Yu says. "We have free WiFi and outlets for laptops."

It sounds simple. But a cafe with ample space that does not consider people who would like to spend time there as table hogs is a rarity, making Lucullus on Elm the sort of place Future Bakery was for the pre-laptop era, before it decided not to extend to its 21st-century customers the same courtesy it once did for its analog chess-playing patrons, blocking off their one electric outlet.

Chinese bakeries have not, traditionally, been trendsetters in Toronto, but with pastry geting ever more artisinal and gluten-free, and electrical outlets being boarded up – or not installed – across the city, perhaps they should be.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Stone Yu
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