A new Manhattan bar has become one of the few brick and mortar operations to accept Bitcoins as a method of payment.
What are Bitcoins? They are essentially a form of digital cash or virtual currency. They are unique in that there is no central issuing or regulatory authority (such as a corporation or government), rather they are issued through the use of downloadable software which in effect searches for Bitcoins over the Internet. A successful search, which takes varying and increasing amounts of computer processing power, results in the issuance of a block of Bitcoins. The more people searching, the more difficult it is, but also the more valuable the Bitcoins are worth. One of the key features of Bitcoins is anonymity. Just like with a cash payment, there are no records as to the individual engaging in the transaction, as the transactions can occur through anonymous Bitcoin addresses. Bitcoins, however, are regulated, at least on the administrator side in the US, by the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN). For more on their virtual currency regulations see FINCEN Issues Virtual Currency Regulations.
The bar accepts Bitcoin payments through a virtual wallet app, which is similar to most app-based payment systems. The app converts bar tabs from US dollars into Bitcoins, which are then transferred to the bar’s bank. Notably, some of the press for the bar may be due to the owner’s close friendship with the chairman of Bitcoin.