Over the years countless customers at Uncle Elizabeth’s have flexed their obscure knowledge to try to pin down where the Internet cafe got its name. A cat from a 1940s film? Any connection to a gay bar in Bloomington, Indiana? According to cafe owner Danny Beutler the story is much simpler — just something the original owner’s niece blurted out one day.
“He thought it was quirky and memorable,” Beutler said.
Uncle Elizabeth’s will be logging off this Sunday, and with it goes Capitol Hill’s last remaining Internet cafe. Kiss the Sky kissed goodbye in 2012 and The Online Cafe shuttered in April. Elizabeth regulars first notified CHS of the closure Wednesday. Beutler said his Pike and Minor cafe had been struggling financially for some time.
“With the rise in smart phones, people just don’t need an Internet cafe to check email. Some people do, but not enough,” he said.
Customers were allowed to surf for 20 minutes free with coffee or pastry, or buy access for $0.10 a minute. The cafe also had free wifi and $0.10/page printing — a service Beutler said was very popular but hardly profitable.
It’s unclear what comes next for the 1123 Pike space, but it probably won’t include a bar or smoke shop. Elizabeth’s is located inside the Wintonia building — a single-room-occupancy housing project run by Catholic Housing Services. Beutler tells CHS his lease included a “no sin clause” preventing him from having alcohol or tobacco sales inside the shop. “Something I probably would have done,” he said.
A person familiar with the Archdiocese housing program said there were no current plans for the soon-to-be empty Internet cafe space.
Beutler, who took over Elizabeth’s in 2008 after working there for two years, said he had no plans to open another cafe.
“I don’t think anything is impossible,” Beutler said about the prospects for an Internet cafe in this day and age. “We still do have customers that have a need for the service we’re offering,” he said.