On Wednesday nights in 30th Street Station, a grab bag of young and old innovative minds meet, many in hopes of one day revolutionizing the payment industry.
Bitcoin, an electronic form of payment that has sparked national attention due to its connection to the website Silk Road, is gaining popularity in Philadelphia’s beer and nightlife scene. Places like Philadelphia Brewing Company and Cavanaugh’s Rittenhouse recently announced that they will accept Bitcoin, a “crypto-currency,” as a form of payment.
Jason DiLuzio, an organizer of “BitcoinPHL,” is quick to vocalize on Bitcoin’s potential. The BitcoinPHL meet-ups consist of individuals willing to learn about, educate on or trade Bitcoins.
“My personal slogan is ‘Bitcoin is just better,’” DiLuzio said. “It’s faster. It’s peer-to-peer. If I were to send you money electronically, I could, right now, send you $20 with a text message, with an email or with a Bitcoin address, and there’s nobody in between me and you sending the money.”
Bitcoin is a decentralized payment method that is slowly but surely gaining more mainstream acceptance, and Philadelphia is no exception.
Local Bitcoin advocates can anticipate more and more establishments accepting their favorite form of payment.
“Philadelphia Brewing Company— they’re respected business people in Philadelphia,” DiLuzio said. “It’s legitimizing it. It’s no longer Internet funny money.”
Nancy Barton, co-owner of Philadelphia Brewing Company, said the ease of Bitcoin transactions is what influenced PBC’s decision to accept it for payment after becoming educated on the concept by DiLuzio.
PBC hosted a Bitcoin meet-up and brewery tour on Feb. 1.
“It’s kind of a weird thing to wrap your head around,” Barton said. “You’re not really exchanging anything or touching anything, but once you do a couple of transactions, it’s super easy.”
Jose Giménez, a calculus professor at Temple, said Bitcoin’s lack of physical exchange is what keeps older generations from embracing the concept.
Giménez, a Bitcoin advocate and occasional attendee at BitcoinPHL meet-ups, said it’s the best candidate for international currency exchange.
Giménez began to learn about the concept after reading a blog about Bitcoin last March, and even offered an extra credit opportunity to his students in a Mathematical Patterns course to explore and present theories behind Bitcoin.
Now, college students have even more of an incentive to explore the exchange of Bitcoin firsthand: beer.
“When you involve beer or alcohol with something, people’s ears kind of perk up,” DiLuzio said about PBC’s announcement to accept Bitcoin. “Whereas if it was just some coffee shop on the corner, they don’t really care as much.”
Another incentive? Wings.
Cavanaugh’s Rittenhouse’s usual Thursday night special of chicken wings with a 45-cent price tag translates in an exchange rate to .0006 Bitcoins.
“People that understand them, that have mined them or earned them or bought them, are looking to spend them,” said Cavaugh’s Rittenhouse owner Kenneth Hutchings.
Bitcoin “newbs” may have trouble making sense of the process, but DiLuzio said that, as of now, Bitcoin is nowhere close to full development.
“[Bitcoin] is essentially the email of money,” DiLuzio said. “Bitcoin does to money what email did to sending letters. This is like 1993 email. It’s like AOL. We’re in our very beginning stage.”
In terms of using Bitcoin for the bar scene, DiLuzio envisions a day when bartenders can be tipped with Bitcoin, making the process more publicized by enticing friendly competition.
“I’m looking forward to the day when instead of when tipping a bartender, instead of putting $2 down on the counter, the bartender’s got a QR-code up on the television, and you just point your phone at the TV and you tip them with Bitcoin,” DiLuzio said. “Maybe there could be an award that they could publicize the best tipper at the bar. It could be like, ‘This Bitcoin address just tipped the bartender $10.’ Then a bell goes off.”
Bartenders may not be too happy unless they’ll have more places to spend these Bitcoin-based tips, however.
As for Bitcoin’s impact on Philadelphia, eager Bitcoin-enthusiast meet-ups at 30th Street Station are just scratching the surface of what DiLuzio has in mind for Bitcoin in Philadelphia.
“My personal mission is to turn Philadelphia into the Silicon Valley of Bitcoin,” DiLuzio said. “I want Philadelphia because I love Philly, I’m from here – to be the ones that attract all the talent. You do that by having people know that they can come to Philly and live exclusively off Bitcoin, because some people have gotten very, very wealthy and have a lot of Bitcoin dollars and just need somewhere to spend it.”
Kerri Ann Raimo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.