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FoundedApril 25, 1995; 23 years ago (1995-04-25)
12 St Marks Place
New York City, New York, U.S.
FoundersGlenn McGinnis
Nicolas Barnes
Chris Townsend
Extinction1996 (1996)
PurposeInternet café
Area served
New York City
OwnerJames Casey (manager)

@Cafe, one of New York City’s first dedicated internet cafes,[1] was incorporated in early 1995[2] by Glenn McGinnis, Nicolas Barnes and Chris Townsend[1][3][4] and opened its doors on Tuesday, April 25, 1995 with the slogan “Eat, Drink, ‘Net.”[5] Founded at 12 St. Marks Place on the site of the original location of St. Mark's Bookshop,[6] the 2,500 sq foot[2] cafe positioned itself as a place where the formerly solitary pursuits of computing were combined with a social atmosphere of a full bar and restaurant.[3][7] In addition to the food and drink, the cafe offered dial-up internet services and email accounts through their fly.net web portal.[5][8][9] Computer and internet usage was billed at $5 per half-hour.[3] The business idea was inspired by Japanese video game cafes that McGinnis had frequented when he lived in Japan during the 1980s.[4] During the internet's early days when the medium was still mostly unexplored, @Cafe tried to present “the internet at its best,”[7] paying $9,000 a month[4] for a dedicated T1 line[8][10] and supplying powerful PC or Mac computers at every table.[11]

At the time of @Cafe’s opening, the first Netscape browser had just been released; a technological advance that introduced the internet to a more general computer user.[12][13] @Cafe soon became a center for patrons curious about the internet, such as famous hacker, Phiber Optik, and was also embraced by New York's burgeoning technology sector known as Silicon Alley.[14][15] @Cafe also made connections with early internet pioneers The WELL, hosting their ten-year anniversary party a few weeks after they opened[16] and was also an early meet up location of the Women’s Technology advocacy group Webgrrls.[17]

@Cafe was one of the first businesses that was predicated on monetizing what had previously been the domain of academics and programmers.[9] When it opened, @Cafe was the largest internet-based cafe in New York City and was the only internet cafe with a full kitchen and bar.[6][18][19] It played host to a number of high-profile events, including a failed online meeting between the New York and Boston mayors Rudy Giuliani and Thomas Menino,[20] the launch of the Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge CD-ROM,[19] The Wall Street Journal’s Interactive Edition website premier,[7][19] a Donna Karan men’s fragrance and website debut,[19][21] and a global and interactive New Year's Eve party on December 31, 1995 with the internet cafes CyberJava in Los Angeles, California and CyberSmith in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[22] Corporate clients MTV, MasterCard, IBM and Budweiser also held technology events at the cafe.[23]

The cafe also played host to an early web/television hybrid program called "Encarta On the Record."[24] The monthly program was moderated by journalist Linda Ellerbee, produced by Microsoft and Ellerbee's production company Lucky Duck and combined a live roundtable discussion with web-based resources through the Encarta web portal.[25] The web audience could ask questions to the panel in real time, the audio of the discussion could be streamed and video images of the proceedings were updated every 8 seconds.[26]

In contemporary interviews, Barnes and McGinnis spoke of opening a number of internet-based cafes around the world,[9][22] where technology novices and professionals could experience the full potential of the internet.[7]

Despite media and public interest, @Cafe never broke even and closed in 1996 before additional locations or franchises could be opened.[4]


  1. ^ a b Landman, Beth (April 28, 1995). "It's De-Lovely, It's De Niro". New York Daily News. p. 60.
  2. ^ a b Reyes, Sonia (Jan 27, 1995). "Combining cafe and computers". New York Daily News. p. 37.
  3. ^ a b c Wolff, Jennifer (April 30, 1995). "At Two Cyber Cafes, They Eat and Drink, Hunt and Peck". New York Times. p. 45.
  4. ^ a b c d Edwards, Phil. "The hippest internet cafe of 1995". Vox. Vox Media, Inc. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b Hodges, Jane (July 24, 1995). "Getting a taste of cyberspace". Advertising Age: 17.
  6. ^ a b Kalish, Jon (April 30, 1995). "Cybercafes new sites to network and nosh". New York Daily News. p. 13.
  7. ^ a b c d "3 NEW CYBER CAFES OPEN". AP Archive. AP. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Internet Over-Easy:". Interactive Age: 50. April 10, 1995.
  9. ^ a b c Much, Marilyn (May 23, 1995). "@ Your Convenience: Dine, Sip Latte And Surf The World Wide Web". Investor's Business Daily.
  10. ^ Stempler, Randall (June 15, 1995). "New York On The Net". New York Post. p. PC16.
  11. ^ Baron, Tom (May 24, 1995). "Welcome to the Cyberbar". Manhattan Mirror. p. 8.
  13. ^ Wilson, Brian. "Netscape Navigator". Blooberry. Brian Wilson. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  14. ^ Garrick, David (May 1, 1995). "espresso@cafe.nyc". New York Newsday. p. B4.
  15. ^ Krantz, Michael (Nov 13, 1995). "The Great Manhattan Geek Rush of 1995". New York Magazine: 39.
  16. ^ Green, Noah (August 1995). "Logging in at the Cybercafe". Spin Magazine: 108.
  17. ^ Levine, Joanne (Mar 5, 1996). "Without the net, they wouldn't have met". New York Post. p. 33.
  18. ^ Sugimoto, Keiko (Sep 30, 1995). "SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL Senken Exclusive Series: New Yorkers' Choice Valuing the Café". The Senken Shimbun Company. p. 4.
  19. ^ a b c d Sasaki, Rei (Feb 1996). "Inside the Authentic American Cybercafe". Playboy Japan: 66.
  20. ^ Massarella, Linda (Aug 16, 1995). "Rudy sends Boston boss to Cyberia". New York Post. p. 8.
  21. ^ Bellafante, Ginia (Sep 25, 1995). "You Log On Here Often?". Time Magazine: 69.
  22. ^ a b Frenkel, Karen (Feb 4, 1996). "Cybercafes: More Than Just A Place to Compute". New York Times CyberTimes.
  23. ^ Rousseau, Bryant (Mar 18, 1996). "Groups Pair Technology, Gastronomy At Cyber-Dining Venue". Meeting News: 6 + 9.
  24. ^ Lewis, Peter H. "Internet Courtroom Battle Gets Cyberspace Preview". New York Times. New York Times Inc. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  25. ^ "MICROSOFT ANNOUNCES NEW 90-MINUTE INTERNET SHOW HOSTED BY LINDA ELLERBEE". The Free Library. PRNewswire. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  26. ^ Hunt, Kevin. "Pixels: ELLERBEE, ON-LINE". The Hartford Courant. The Hartford Courant. Retrieved 7 October 2016.