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Sun, Beers and Bitcoin in Santiago

Friday 10th, January 2014 / 04:59
Sun, Beers and Bitcoin in Santiago

Bitcoin is gaining momentum in South America with a nightclub in Santiago now accepting bitcoin as payment for beers, burgers and cocktails.

The California Cantina, a trendy restaurant, sports bar and nightclub in the Providencia neighbourhood of the Chilean capital, claims to be the first nightclub in South America to accept bitcoin for payments. The owner, James Lyles, says a friend introduced him to bitcoin and he was immediately blown away by the potential:

“I just found that it was one of those things that was going to make paying and the transactions between people a lot easier. And it takes out the financial institutions, the partners we would rather not have,” he said.

Credit card charges

In Chile, credit card companies charge an additional 3 – 3.5% per transaction. This adds up to hundreds of thousand of peso each year, according to Lyles. Right now, about 70% of all payments in California Cantina are made with credit cards, but Lyles hopes to be able to cut that down by 10% within the first few months by promoting bitcoin payments. This, he says, will lead to “huge savings”. He added:

“We will start it as a trial and see how it catches on. But there are a lot of people in Chile that are starting to buy bitcoin and a lot of the international people here who are all over it.”

The bar started accepting bitcoin payments on Wednesday night, when it held a large meet up and party that drew a large crowd to the nightclub. Joining them for the occasion was Nicolas Cary, CEO of Blockchain.info and Adam Stradling, the founder of Coin4ce, the Santiago-based bitcoin company that will process the payments in Californian Cantina.

First night to accept bitcoin at California Cantina in Santiago, Chile
First night accepting bitcoin at California Cantina in Santiago, Chile

 

Taking time out from the festivities, Stradling said that bitcoin is gaining a momentum in Latin America. The currency’s major hub is still Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, where a number of restaurants, bars and clothes stores accept bitcoin for payments. Buenos Aires also has the highest number of bitcoin users in Latin America, but Stradling says that Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico are waking up to bitcoin and catching up fast.

“Two years ago when we started trading here in Chile nobody knew what was going on. Now, two years later, the newspapers have been writing about bitcoin every day for months,” he said.

QR codes

For California Cantina, Coin4ce has created a pesos to bitcoin market rate converter that creates a QR code for each transaction for bars and restaurants. A waiter or waitress can just bring over an iPad, enter the bill amount, and generate a unique QR code to receive the payment from the customer. Coin4ce is also working on a bitcoin wallet for the Chilean market together with Blockchain and they hope to expand their operations to Peru, Colombia, and Mexico in the near future.

Nicolas Cary is also sensing a new understanding of bitcoin in Latin America. Last time he visited to talk about bitcoin and Blockchain, he said he sounded like an “extraterrestrial” to most people.

But now everyone from taxi drivers to bar owners and business leaders have an opinion on the subject: “the usefulness of [bitcoin] for people here is becoming really clear,” he says.

Lyles maintains that financial incentives were the main motive to accept bitcoin. However, he is also excited about the project on a personal level, to be a part of the future and to stay ahead of his competitors:“If you are not getting used to it now, you will be forced to get used to it later,” he said. “So, we might as well be ahead of the curve”.

So, if you fancy a holiday with sun, beer and a way to spend your bitcoin, head to the South American summer and Santiago for a bitcoin holiday. You can  even book your flight on Btctrip, the Argentinian bitcoin travel agency.

Beer Image via Shutterstock

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