(TNS) — PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — You can eat, drink and practice yoga in Portsmouth by paying with the electronic currency Bitcoin, thanks in large part to Steven Zeiler, a city resident, financial software developer and "Bitcoin evangelist."
The 26-year-old technology professional said he's been paid in Bitcoin and shops online with Bitcoin, but was frustrated with an inability to use it at local businesses. A Bikram yoga practitioner, he asked Sarah Curry, owner of the local Bikram Yoga studio on Islington Street, if she'd accept payment from him in Bitcoin and she said yes. In May, Zeiler filmed a video of Curry adhering a sticker to the front door of the yoga studio announcing the "cryptocurrency" is now accepted there.
"I work with the number one banking technology in cyrptospace, so I'm always working on expanding the Bitcoin technology," Zeiler said. "I have a lot of friends on the Seacoast who use it and I want people near me to accept it."
Zeiler's latest convert is Street restaurant in Portsmouth, which also now accepts payment by Bitcoin. Street employee Jim Karlotski said Zeiler was dining in the Islington Street restaurant one evening when he asked about hosting a meeting for Bitcoin enthusiasts. Karlotski said the 15 to 20 new customers for the meeting would mean hundreds of dollars in new revenue for the restaurant, but he was told payment would have to be in Bitcoins.
"We already use iPads for our point of sale system, so they recommended a few apps to ease the process along and eventually we settled on Bitcoin Checkout by BitPay," he said. "Imagine if you had a customer coming from Japan and paying in yen. They would hand you a credit card, the bank would automatically convert the yen into U.S. dollars, and the end result would be the same as if they paid with a U.S. credit card. The process with BitPay is very similar, except with a cellphone camera and a QR code instead of a credit card. The customer pays for the service with Bitcoins, the BitPay company converts it at the current exchange rate, and U.S. dollars are deposited into your bank account."
Karlotski said setup took about a half hour "and now we have the structure to accept Bitcoins in the future."
"At the end of the day, it's really just business and another way to attract customers and keep them happy," he said.
Zeiler said he uses purse.io to purchase anything from Amazon with Bitcoin and usually gets a 20 percent discount doing it. Online retailer Overstock.com accepts Bitcoin, Microsoft will accept Bitcoin payment for games, and gift cards are available for purchase with Bitcoin that can then be used to buy with from retailers currently not accepting Bitcoin.
Joshua Cyr, a Portsmouth city councilor and director of Alpha Loft, was an early adopter of Bitcoin and in 2014 hosted “The Bitcoin Symposium” at The Music Hall, with "a few other enthusiasts," as part of the Digital Portsmouth series. For business owners accepting Bitcoin, Cyr said, they might choose to hold onto it, "or they might process it into cash at the end of the day."
"There's really no downside to accepting (Bitcoin) if converting to cash via a service," he said. "It's just being flexible."
©2016 Portsmouth Herald, N.H. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.