At Anticafé you can enjoy everything from coffee to board games so long as you pay your rent
Like any café, Anticafé offers coffee, tea and biscuits. There are comfortable sofas and there is free Wi-Fi. But what sets it apart from every other café in Montreal is that you don’t pay for any of these things. Instead, patrons are charged for their time spent at the café.
“People pay an entry fee, but we don’t sell food or coffee. We’re more constituted like a boutique, or an art gallery,” explained David Chevrier, a manager and part owner at the café.
Anticafé is a social space first and a café second. Its look and feel are the sum of its clients, almost itself a living, breathing, changing space. It seamlessly acts as a workplace, a hangout and a workshop. The community aspect is reflected by the friendly staff, in the whimsical artwork adorning the walls, and by the fact that you need to do your own dishes.
Montreal’s Anticafé opened in October 2015 and is modeled after the very first café applying this concept, named Ziferblat, located in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Ten rooms are available, including a T.V. room with DVDs, a board game room, and various “meeting” rooms that can also be rented out. The café plans to open a yoga and an art room in the near future.
Spanning two floors, the main windows look right out onto Quartier des spectacles. The antique furniture doesn’t match and the interior doesn’t follow a colour scheme, but that’s just the look that Chevrier was going for.
“We wanted something eclectic, very disparate, very mixed so that even though it just opened, it looks like it’s been open 15 years,” he said. “It has an old soul, old furniture with a history. It’s also part of the Anticafé mentality of recuperation, very pro-environment.”
Guests are tracked in an Excel sheet, and pay for the duration of their stay at the end. The first hour costs $3, and each subsequent hour is $2 for a total of $9 per day maximum. While $9 adds up to four hours at the café, visitors can stay longer, as the hours are free onwards. Monthly passes sold at $180 ensure you access to the café, even when at full capacity, as well as five free hours for a friend.
Capacity is capped at 80 people to maintain a tranquil, comfortable ambiance and prevent overcrowding. Since the café has seen a surge in popularity since the beginning of January, staff has had to refuse guests. Chevrier added that the Anticafé’s mandate will always be to give clients the impression of coming home to a shared apartment.
“It’s fun to have people over at your house, but too many people, that’s not fun anymore. We’re here to maintain a nice environment so that it’s pleasant for guests,” he said. “When you have roommates, you take your boots off, you wash your dishes, you keep the bathrooms clean, and that’s what people love.”
You’re wrong if you think that only students frequent the café. Rooms have been rented out to media for interviews and to large corporations for business meetings. The spike in numbers means they’re still figuring out their busiest days, peak hours and financial situation.
“It went from two big bags of coffee a week to maybe seven big bags per week. The cookies, I used to buy for about $80 per week, now I buy for $60 per day. We went from 20, 30, 40 clients per day to 150, 200. We’re adjusting and adapting.”
Chevrier admitted that he’s thinking of opening other Anticafé locations, some of which, he noted, will be wheelchair accessible.
Anticafé is located at 294 Ste. Catherine St. W and is open every day from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.