Geo’s Anticafe offers a unique experience for students

Photo by Emily Waitson

With midterms fast approaching, the Laurier Library and nearby cafés will soon be filled with groups of students looking to cram in some extra study time, which means that finding a quiet spot to look over your notes might become a bit more difficult as the semester progresses.

Geo’s Anticafé promises to provide an alternative working space for those looking to prepare for tests and work on their assignments, which will be ideal for people who can’t focus on schoolwork in their dorms, aren’t able to find the perfect spot in the library or don’t enjoy the ongoing spending involved with long-term café stays.

Located at 42 Bridgeport Road East, the new uptown establishment hopes to set itself apart from other local businesses with its unique European model and nomadic-oriented space.

Geoffrey Gao, the owner of Geo’s Anticafé, created his business to provide an alternative workplace for Waterloo Region.

“Well, you know, in this day and age everybody gets a thing for everything, right? It’s nice to have a place where you’re not dealing with microtransactions every few minutes. This is a Slavic concept, it’s from Moscow … we think that concept would be good for a town like this,” Gao said.

Patrons pay by the hour, with the first hour costing $9.45 and the ones following priced at $7.49 where people are charged by the minute. Students and seniors receive a 10 per cent discount, and all coffee and refreshments are “free” — or, more accurately, are included in the hourly base rate.

Despite the unique and intriguing concept of his business, there have been a few challenges that Gao has run into during the process.

I think there is a need … because dorms are not the best place [to work] and the good spots in the libraries are always taken.

— Geoffrey Gao, owner of Geo’s Anticafé

“People have an issue here that you don’t have to deal with in Europe. There, people are very curious, they want to experience new things at least once and then they decide for themselves if they want to repeat. Here, nobody wants to be the first one. They feel like something bad or terrible is going to happen to them. I’ve literally had people ask me, ‘What’s the catch?’ What catch? What’s gonna happen to you? Then there’s always [things] like permit issues, regulation issues, [and] condo board issues,” Gao said.

The café is bright and open, providing a variety of options for each customer depending on the need of their stay. There are small tables with board games, a soundproof study room equipped with colour-changing lights and an adequate seating selection, foosball and air hockey tables, as well as a counter with coffee, refreshments and a microwave.

For people who are hesitant to experience the café for the first time and see what it’s like, Gao suggests to just try it — there’s a free half-hour with your name on it if you do.

“You see hundreds of people passing by that little strip, walking, but not coming in through the doors. And as soon as you approach them, they run. Seldomly, some people come in, they take a tour, they say “oh yeah, we’ll check it out.” You don’t see them again. But you know, we get two, three customers who actually stay and pay for the time,” Gao said.

Geo’s Anticafé was created with the interests of local university and college students in mind, and to supplement the need for a venue that can provide more than one option for people’s various working and studying needs.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time. I think there is a need. It fits a certain niche, right? Whether it’s nomadic workers, students … because dorms are not the best place and the good spots in the libraries are always taken. Also, you have anxiety in a library, because you feel like you make a noise, everybody’s going to shush you,” Gao said.

Gao’s space is certainly different from other places that claim to offer similar luxuries, and it’s clear from his passion for his business that he believes in what he has to offer potential Customers.

“We provide cheap, comfortable and relaxing workspace to get your best, focused work done. One of the grad students pointed out that time is money, and more so here than anywhere else, right? So they feel the pressure to get as much work done as possible because they’re literally paying for the time,” Gao said.

“We offer all sorts of cold and hot drinks as well as snacks, pastries. I think the easiest way to differentiate us and other time cafes and whatnot is we’re a combination of many different venues, all in one. Versus, I’m sure you can find everything we’ve got here in other venues, but you’re not going to find all these things in one venue for a flat fee.”

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