Bitcoins are an exciting new digital currency that's gaining popularity around the world, and Vancouver is on the forefront of this emerging technology. It's free (and relatively easy) to get started using Bitcoins, and there are a bunch of ways to spend the coins. If you haven't already begun collecting Bitcoins, there are a few ways you can get them.
For people with tons of processing power at their disposal, one option is to become a Bitcoin miner. This isn't feasible for most people though, and the majority of Bitcoin users prefer to exchange conventional currency or other goods for Bitcoins. Bitcoiniacs have been operating a physical store in Vancouver where customers can go to exchange currencies in person, or you can buy Bitcoins online from a variety of online dealers. And now that Vancouver is the first city in the world to have a Bitcoin ATM, it's never been easier to get onboard with the new currency.
There's an ever-growing number of businesses in Vancouver willing to accept payment in Bitcoin. There are no fees for taking payment in this new currency, which is enticing for forward-thinking entrepreneurs looking to attract new customers. Many of them even offer discounts to customers who pay with coins. From landscaping to Indian food to massages, there's something for pretty much anyone. Here's a list of some of the coolest ways to spend your coins.
Sweet Tooth Café
2404 E Hastings St. EAST VAN
Call 604 255-6997
Sweet Tooth Café is a difficult sort of place to sum up in a few words. A cross between a typical coffee shop and a homestyle Thai restaurant, Sweet Tooth is known both for its delicious cinnamon buns and its pad thai dinner. Designed with a 1950s aesthetic in mind, it has managed to establish a loyal following at its location by Hastings and Nanaimo. Everything from the caramel pecan buns to the pineapple curry is made fresh in-house, and Sweet Tooth is likely to have something to suit any mood you're in.
Like savoury cream cheese on a sweet bagel, Sweet Tooth Café is a refreshing reminder that sometimes it's the stranger combinations that produce the best results. Proving that it's truly ahead of the curve, Sweet Tooth accepts payment in Bitcoins.
Bestie — Chinatown's Finest Currywurst
105 E Pender CHINATOWN
Call 604 620-1175
Bestie is a neat little shop that offers a variety of German eats. Drawing inspiration from German street food, Bestie specializes in pretzels and sausages. In addition to the more traditional sausage and sauerkraut, Bestie serves a dish it calls "currywurst," which consists of sausage served over fries with curry ketchup. Bestie claims that it's "Germany's most popular street food." It's probably right. And vegetarians need not fear — Bestie has got you covered with smoked apple Veggie Wurst.
If you don't feel like fresh baked pretzels or sausage, some healthier options are available in the form of some pretty fancy Kohlrabi Kohlslaw. But where the awesomely crowdsourced Bestie really pulls ahead of the curve is its hours. Being open til 3:00 a.m. means that after a late night on the town, you're not likely to find anything better or more interesting than some authentic German-style street food in Vancouver's Chinatown. And you can pay from your smart phone with your new digital currency. What a world.
1072 Denman St. WEST END
Call 604 689-4527
Located right off English Bay, Central Bistro is a classy way to spend your Bitcoins. The dinner menu offers a variety of locally sourced fish as well as some compelling vegetarian options, and the breakfast menu boasts some truly impressive-looking eggs Benedict using local free-range eggs. This is a restaurant that cares about using quality ingredients — and sourcing them locally when possible. It may not be the cheapest place to grab a bite, but sometimes the best things in life aren't free. Sometimes you have to pay for them — with Bitcoins.
India Gate Restaurant
616 Robson St. DOWNTOWN
Call 604 684-4617
While there are many Indian restaurants in Vancouver, there's only one currently accepting Bitcoins. Located on trendy Robson Street, India Gate caters to the downtown crowd and offers a delivery service for those rainy days when you just can't force yourself to leave the house. It serves a wide variety of seafood, meat, and vegetarian dishes. India Gate may not be the cheapest Indian food in town, but it does offer daily specials and serve affordable drinks.
India Gate takes a slightly different approach from the other Bitcoin merchants on this list. Rather than allowing Bitcoin payments generally, India Gate hosts a monthly Bitcoin meet-up called Coinfest. Gurmeet Gutta, who introduced the idea, says that he began hosting the networking event "to get new customers that normally wouldn't come." In an industry as competitive as this, savvy restaurateurs like Gurmeet will do "whatever it takes to get noticed."
Waves Coffee House
100 - 900 Howe St. HOWE
Call 604 899-9283
Vancouver loves its coffee! It seems there are nearly as many coffee shops as there are people, and each of them seems to be doing good business. In a world where it's hard to tell one coffee shop from another, it's important to stand out from the pack. One franchise in Vancouver has set itself apart to be the first big-name coffee house to accept Bitcoins. The Waves downtown at Howe and Smithe is the most spacious location, and perhaps also the most progressive.
In addition to featuring two reservable meeting rooms, this particular Waves has recently started accepting payments in Bitcoins. I spoke to store manager Chris, who said it's been about two months since his store began accepting Bitcoins, and they "typically get two to five transactions per day. Sometimes more, sometimes none."
While five transactions a day might not be huge, it might not be long before other franchises and chains pick up on alternative currency. As Bitcoins become easier to use and more recognized brands like Waves get on board with the program, we can only expect those numbers to rise.
No Limit Landscaping
No Limit Landscaping is a brand new landscaping company serving Vancouver. No Limit focuses on residential properties and specializes in water features. No Limit boasts one of only two certified Aquascape Contractors in the Vancouver area and has installed over 200 water features. So if you've been waiting for the right time to install that two-tiered backyard koi pond with a waterfall and you've got some Bitcoins burning a hole through your digital wallet, consider giving No Limit a call.
Pacific Bliss Massage
Pacific Bliss is an independent massage parlour in Vancouver that specializes in Swedish relaxation massage. Located by the entrance to Granville Island, Pacific Bliss promises to ease muscle tension, reduce stress, and elevate moods through conventional Swedish massage. For anyone looking for something a little different, Pacific Bliss also offers hot and cold stone therapy intended to help with circulation, stimulate the lymphatic system, and help you achieve deep relaxation.
I asked owner and operator Michael Bliss why he got into Bitcoins. As one of the earliest proponents of Bitcoins in Vancouver, for him it wasn't just a business decision. "We accept Bitcoin for social justice reasons and because bitcoins are sound money, backed by cryptography, unlike our debt-based national currencies, which have no backing." Unlike conventional currencies, there are no private banks, and many people are drawn to the freedom of exchanging directly without interest or bank mediation.
Pacific Bliss is currently offering $40 off 75-minute massages and $30 off 60-minute massages paid for in Bitcoins. Considering that the regular price for a 75-minute massage is $110, this is a pretty solid deal. Pacific Bliss offers massages at beautiful Wreck Beach during the summer.
Free Geek Vancouver
Free Geek is a unique non-profit community organization that seeks to reduce the environmental impact of all our old electronic devices while providing free education and discount computers. Free Geek is a great place to visit if you run into any kind of computer trouble, and it caters to all experience levels. There always seems be a regiment of knowledgeable volunteers ready not only to fix your problem, but also to teach exactly what they're doing.
Besides offering tech support and computer education, Free Geek is a great place to go for refurbished electronics. Free Geek aims to reduce the amount of electronic waste we ship overseas by removing old unwanted gadgets from the waste stream, stripping them for usable parts, and then building new machines out of those parts. There are a few ways that you can get a computer from Free Geek. The first is to take part in the build program. Free Geek will teach you how to build computers, and after you build five, you get to keep the sixth. Another option is to put 24 hours towards volunteering in the shop.
The final way to get a computer from Free Geek is to buy one from their computer hardware thrift shop. Here you can find an assortment of refurbished laptop and desktop computers that you can get at substantial discounts. All profits go towards covering the operating costs of the organization, and you can pay with Bitcoins!
Free Geek runs on donations of electronics and will even accept broken devices, which it will recycle ethically for you. A great organization, and a great way to spend coins.
It's no secret that records are making a big comeback. Audiophiles have lost interest in the compressed sound quality of MP3s, and folks yearn for a simpler time when their music collection took up an entire room in their house, rather than a thumb drive under their desk. It's no surprise, then, that many artists are releasing and re-releasing their albums on vinyl, and record stores around Vancouver do business in albums new and old.
Enter Popsike Records. This online record store is for the true collector. Specializing in rare and obscure albums ranging in price from $20 to over $300, Popsike is bound to carry some novel sounds that will impress even your hippest friends. It lists albums by category and describes the condition of every album. Why not use your new obscure currency to buy some old obscure music? The owners of Popsike Records are collectors as well as distributors, so if you've got any gems in your attic you're interested in offloading, send them an email! Maybe you can get some Bitcoins coming back your way.
Art of Muse
Have you ever wanted to take music lessons, but just never found the opportunity? Well, now you have one. Art of Muse instructor Serge Chubinsky-Orlov offers personalized one-on-one instruction on piano or keyboard, music writing, production, and theory. Specializing in digital music production and composition, it's no surprise that Art of Muse accepts payment in Bitcoins.
Lessons are tailored towards your own personal aspirations — whether that be to learn how to sight-read classical music or do jazz improvisations or just brush up on your music theory. All new students begin with a personal orientation meeting to hammer out the details.
I asked Serge, who began accepting Bitcoins to "provide payment flexibility," how the new currency has affected his businesses. "So far," he says, "no impact yet. Not a single student with Bitcoins. I really hope it will evolve." If you're looking for some one-on-one instruction in music theory, production, or performance and you're looking for a way to spend some coins, why not secure yourself the honour of being the first Art of Muse student to pay with Bitcoins?