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Helsinki cocktail bar enforces no phone zone

A Helsinki bar's smartphone ban has become a selling point for patrons who prefer to be pulled away from the soft glow of their phones' LED screens.

No devices allowed. Image: Chihuhua Julep

Customers park their phones in a box upon arrival at Chihuahua Julep, a cocktail bar on Erottajankatu in downtown Helsinki. Initially the rule against smartphones was only a recommendation, but staff soon felt they wanted to enforce an outright ban to keep phones out of people's hands.

Smartphone addiction has raised a bit of public debate and discussion in Finland — from experts calling for phone bans in schools, to emerging therapies for the net addicted.

Self-titled "social media doctor" Suvi Uski recently told Yle News' All Points North podcast that around 90 percent of smartphone-owners in Finland suffer from social media addiction.

No-notifications relaxation

Initially the bar wanted to ban phones because they sapped the cocktail lounge’s ambiance. But today patrons say they arrive to relax in a setting where they can give their undivided attention to other people, according to bar owner Jami Järvinen.

"People need a space where they can unwind without the pings and buzzes of smartphone [notifications]," he told Yle.

Minna, a Julep patron, told Yle she felt anxious on her first visit to the no-phone zone.

"I kept feeling like I was missing out on something important," she told Yle.

Another customer, Minn, said she spends 70 percent of her day in front of a screen and therefore likes the opportunity to be able to focus on other things.

Järvinen said the bar's no-phone policy has taken many by surprise, but most people have welcomed the chance to 'be forced to interact with people.'

”Social interaction is so different when phones are out of the picture. Many people would like to cut down on smartphone use but can’t seem to manage it,” he said.

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