Cavanaugh’s starts accepting Bitcoins for beer and wings

Bitcoin coins
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Bitcoins, the crypto-currency that’s taking off around the globe, is arriving right here in Philadelphia. Starting Wednesday, Cavanaugh’s on Sansom Street in Rittenhouse is accepting Bitcoins as payment.

“In 2020, they could be worth nothing, or they could be worth a million dollars,” said Cavanaugh’s owner Ken Hutchings of the Bitcoin. “I’m willing to take that risk and see how it goes.”

Currently Cavanaugh’s is a popular Center City sports bars that is known for its 45-cents-per-wing special on Thursdays from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Hutchings joked that now, they might start to offer 0.0001-Bitcoin wings.

That’s because Bitcoins, once having the value of mere pennies, are now valued at over $800 each — $813.21 exactly, as of Jan. 23.

That’s a lot more than the cost of wings and a couple beers. But it’s possible to just pay with a fraction of a Bitcoin.

When Cavanaugh’s customers pay with Bitcoin, all they need is a Droid-based smartphone with the free Coinbase app and an account.

When the check comes, instead of whipping out your credit card or cash, it’s just a quick digital Bitcoin transaction.

“I was interested personally in it from the beginning,” Hutchings said of Bitcoin. “I did my research five months ago; I thought, ‘This is just neat.’”

Bitcoins were first developed in 2009. Recently Overstock.com and OKCupid.com started accepting them as a form of payment. It’s also being investigated by Amazon and eBay.

There are some advantages to accepting Bitcoins over other forms of payment, Hutchings said.

“One of the main reasons we were looking at them was with Coinbase, before you get $1 million in sales, you’re not getting [charged] points,” he explained. “Credit card charges are 3 percent for Visa and Mastercard.”

One day after officially starting to accept Bitcoins, Hutchings said they were still waiting for their first Bitcoin-totiing customer to walk through the door, but it could end up being a landslide as the cryptocurrency is increasingly popular.

“People earn them through transaction formulas they can process,” Hutching said of Bitcoin mining. “I don’t have any regulars that have earned them that way, but maybe it will attract a new group of people.”

If Bitcoins work out for Cavanaugh’s, Hutching said they’ll expand it to their other locations around the city.

The tough question will be, however, whether to hold on to the Bitcoins and wait and see if they appreciate, or to just transfer them to cash immediately.

Cavanaugh’s was preceded a little bit in hopping on this internet trend by Philadelphia Brewing Company, which began accepting Bitcoins as payment earlier this month.

They also have had a slow start getting customers to actually pay with the digital currency, said owner Nancy Barton, but several have stopped by already. The Philadelphia Brewing Company in Kensington is also expecting a group of “Bitcoin Meetup” members from the Phialdelphia area to stop by soon.

Bitcoins were first popularized as a currency for illegal drug sales on the deep Internet “Silk Road” website, but are now used for many legitimate purposes. Other cryptocoins such as Litecoin and Dogecoin are also attracting users.

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