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Cafe keeps customers wired to the Web

July 10, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - At the Live Wire Cafe, customers are asked if they want a computer with their coffee.

Cheryl Everman opened the Live Wire Cafe on June 27 at 123 N. Queen St.

"I had wanted to open a cafe," Everman said.

Her daughter, a student at Shepherd College, and her son, a student at Jefferson High School, both complained about the lack of access to computers to get on the Internet.

Everman said she saw the Internet Cafe in New York City, where computers are placed at the coffee shop for customer use.

She liked the idea and planned to open a similar shop in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

"The cost was just too high there," she said.

Installing a high-speed computer line cost twice as much in Jefferson County as in Berkeley County, so she opened the shop in Martinsburg.

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The cafe has five multimedia computers with high-speed Internet connections.

Martinsburg also provides a larger, professional base to draw upon, Everman said.

While business has started off slow, she said she already has had a couple of businessmen stop by to have lunch and check their e-mail.

At night, younger customers show up.

They check their e-mail and drink Italian sodas instead of coffee, Everman said.

"Usually the high school crowd shows up after 9 at night when they get off work at the mall," said night manager Tracey Reid.

"They come in, get some coffee and hang out. They don't want to go home and hang out with their siblings or go listen to their parents nag them," Reid said.

The Live Wire Cafe has had 10 people sign up for monthly memberships, where they get Internet access, use of the computers for games and other applications, an e-mail account, and discounts on food and beverages.

The computer memberships start at $29.95 a month.

Coffee starts at 75 cents for a small to $1.25 for a 16-ounce cup.

"The Live Wire Blend is the most popular. The Live Wire is a mix of Mexican and Sumatran ... so it's robust but not bitter," Everman said.

Everman said she plans to provide 15 minutes of free computer use for each A on a student's report card. She also wants to provide free computer time to teachers in Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson counties.

"They've got to have time on the computers so they can keep ahead of their students," Everman said.

The computers do not have software to block explicit photos from being viewed on the Internet, but the cafe has a rule against it.

"The blocker software kept screwing up the server," Everman said. "We tell people this is a family establishment and we don't want them viewing anything anyone under 18 should not see."

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