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You Pay for Time, Not Coffee, at This 'Anti-Cafe'

At Glass Hour in Brooklyn, you can have as much coffee as your central nervous system can take. But there's a catch.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Oct 22 2016, 3:00pm

We've all either seen that person or we've been that person, the one who takes imaginary sips from a long, cold caffe latte, trying to convince ourselves that it's OK if we spend another two hours working in an already crowded coffee shop. A new spot in Brooklyn hopes to break that mindset—and that habit—by opening an "anti-cafe" where customers are charged by the minute instead of by the macchiato.

At Glass Hour you can have as much coffee as your central nervous system can take, because you're not paying for the coffee as much as you're paying for the space itself. Customers check in before they open their MacBooks, pay a flat $6 rate for the first hour and then 10 cents per minute after that, up to a max of $24 per day. (Stay more than four hours, and you're free to hang out as long as you want, no fake sipping required).

READ MORE: These Are New York's Best Coffee Shops to Get Your Caffeine High

That 1-900-number style rate includes unlimited coffee, tea, granola bars, and cookies—and patrons can also play board games, Foosball, or a Playstation 4. (Yes, apparently you can put a price on procrastination). The concept is based on the "time cafes" Glass Hour's co-founders frequented when they lived in Russia, and they hope that the idea will catch on in Williamsburg. We spoke with co-owner Zlata Koshlina to find out more about Glass Hour, and to feel really stupid for not picking up on the wordplay in the cafe's name.

MUNCHIES: What prompted you to open Glass Hour in this format? Zlata Koshlina: All of the founders are from Russia and, when we were students, we spent lots of time in this kind of place. The time cafe was born in Russia, actually, and we have plenty of them in Moscow. When we came here, we noticed there weren't any [time cafes] in New York, or in America in general. So we decided to try it.

Do you think of it as a cafe or a coworking space? We try to position it as a community for young entrepreneurs, tech people, and designers. In the daytime, yes, you can use it as a coworking space, but on the weekends or at night, it's a place to chill. We have two floors. The first floor is brightly lit for working and playing board games. Downstairs is more like a playroom, with a Playstation and beanbags. If you're killing zombies in your game, you have a nice, dark atmosphere, even if it's ten in the morning.

What has the response been like so far? Do you have a lot of repeat customers? If someone comes here once, they usually come a second time. We already have people who are working here on a permanent basis and using it as a coworking space, but most people are here on the weekends. Ideally, we want to have it full every day, not at max capacity, but at max comfort for everyone.

How long do most of your customers stay? On workdays, people usually stay between four and six hours. But even those who come to play are here two, two and a half hours.

So what makes it an anti-cafe? Basically, it's that when you come to Glass Hour, it's a free space. If you want a coffee, you grab a mug and make it yourself. We have coffee machines, cream and sugar, but you're going to serve yourself. Then you take a snack, pick a seat, and bring your cup back when you're finished.

How did you get the name Glass Hour? You don't pay for anything except time here. We were thinking about the symbols of time and–

I just got that. You have unlimited coffee and snacks? Yes, you can drink as much coffee as you want and we have granola bars, candy, cookies—you're welcome to eat as much as you can handle.

The shop has been open for two months, but you just launched a Kickstarter. Why now? There are four of us (who co-founded Glass Hour). We're all under 25, work at corporate jobs, and we're doing this with our own money. We don't have any investments, so it's just from our own savings. What we've been able to put here was all that we have, and there's always an opportunity to improve—to buy better coffee machines, more cookies, more games. We started the Kickstarter to make the place better.

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