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Laptops Banned At New Cafe/Book Store Opening In Lincoln Park

By Mina Bloom | June 9, 2016 4:16pm
 Owner Annie Kostiner at Kibbitznest's Books, Brews & Blarney, 2212 N. Clybourn Ave.
Owner Annie Kostiner at Kibbitznest's Books, Brews & Blarney, 2212 N. Clybourn Ave.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LINCOLN PARK — At a new cafe/bookstore opening soon in Lincoln Park, patrons can enjoy all the offerings of a traditional cafe and then some: drip coffee, light fare as well as beer and wine. 

But unlike most cafes, there will be no wireless internet at Kibbitznest's Books, Brews & Blarney. Laptops won't be allowed, and smartphone use will be strongly discouraged.

The goal of the cafe, at 2212 N. Clybourn Ave., is to facilitate face-to-face communication, which owner Anne Kostiner said is diminishing in the internet age.

"We have to create the culture because if we expect people to just change on their own without anyone taking action, it might not happen," Kostiner said.

"Our responsibility is to extend ourselves beyond the electronic support systems that we have that are so easy. It's important, because one of the basic aspects of being a human being is to communicate with each other," she said.

Instead of using laptops, patrons will be encouraged to strike up conversations, play board games, listen to vinyl records or the radio. There also will be a selection of used books available for purchase.

"The idea is to spend some time here. It's not a place to pick up coffee and go," said Kostiner. "There's plenty of places like that."

Kostiner envisions the cafe as a community gathering spot where people of all ages will convene for good conversations over drinks and snacks without distractions — hopefully for hours on end.

On the menu will be a selection of desserts, including ice cream, as well as a variety of appetizers that pair well with beer and wine, like a cheese plate, popcorn and vegetables and dip. Kostiner said she couldn't resist offering a Chicago-style hot dog even though it's not light fare. Drip coffee — not espresso — will also be on the menu.

The bar at the cafe. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

The cafe is an offshoot of Kostiner's nonprofit company dubbed Kibbitznest, which is named after the Yiddish word kibbitz, which means "to chat." 

Kostiner developed the nonprofit as a way to host poetry readings, educational workshops, art exhibits and other programming. Those events will be held in the back room of the cafe once it officially opens to the public in September. A soft opening is planned for August.

Kostiner couldn't name just one defining moment that made her realize the importance of face-to-face communication. But she said she was taken aback after reading studies on how children's brains are changing due to the prevalence of technology. She also mentioned feeling shocked when she saw a 2-year-old using an iPad. 

"We have to let kids and parents understand that there's a cause and effect. Internet and screen time isn't always good. It has to be balanced," she said.

Books, Brews & Blarney is Kostiner's first foray in running a cafe, but not as an entrepreneur. 

She and her husband made a career out of rehabbing turn-of-the-century warehouses in the West Loop from the late 1980s until 2000. That allowed them to open up a private ice rink, Johnny's Ice House East. Kostiner also found time to run an art gallery and a nonprofit dedicated to helping underserved youth. 

She admitted that opening an anti-internet cafe is somewhat of an "experiment," but it's a risk she believes is worth taking.

Lincoln Park "has a lot of great places, but a lot of them are attracting a certain demographic," she said. 

"All of the college kids go to one bar, and all of the neighborhood people go to a certain place. I don't see a place where people go, and they always know when they go that they'll see someone they know."


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