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Would I recommend coworking at a bar on a Tuesday morning? Yes, yes I would

The Lunch Club 215 and WEach Seats recently partnered up to bring full-time freelancers and other remote workers to a Rittenhouse pub for the day. Here's what happened.

By Julie Zeglen / STAFF

November 16th

Something like 43% of American workers are remote at least part of the time — and the amount of folks who work remotely as many as five days per week grew by 7% from 2012 to 2016, according to a New York Times report. That’s why I find myself typing alongside about a dozen such professionals in a Rittenhouse bar on a dreary Tuesday morning.

When I arrive to The Black Sheep Pub around 11 a.m., a staffer near the door immediately pegs me for a tech-y person — maybe it’s the backpack? — and points me upstairs.

I’m here to join The Lunch Club 215, a six-month-old social group dedicated exclusively to digital nomads. In addition to happy hours and, yes, group lunches, the club meets in a different spot every month for coworking. Today, we’re at Black Sheep thanks to Philly startup WEach Seats, which connects such nomads in need of affordable workspace with restaurants looking to fill unused tables via day passes or memberships.

As I enter the dimly lit second-floor space, a few minor concerns pop into my head: Will my fellow workers talk the whole time? Or at all? How’s the Wi-Fi? Will anyone order beer? (Is it cool if I order a beer?)

But it takes me approximately three minutes to feel extremely comfortable with the idea of working at a bar.

My first co-coworkers include an events manager, a menswear consultant and a graphic designer. Folks do chat whenever a new person joins us — a few joke about being impressed with themselves for leaving the house today — but there are long periods of calm quiet, save for the easy-listening radio in the background and a bubbling air conditioning unit stuck in the window to my right. Notably, no one is wearing earbuds.

I order a shepherd’s pie for lunch (it is a pub, after all) and settle in with my laptop and a free cup of coffee at the long table assembled from five two-tops.

Lunch Club 215 coworkers at The Black Sheep Pub, July 2019. (Photo by Julie Zeglen)

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The Lunch Club doesn’t always meet in bars.

A one-day partnership with WEach Seats provides the pub setting on this particular day. The Black Sheep is one of four Philly restaurants currently using WEach Seats, and a forthcoming app will list the need-to-know details of each — its policy on ordering food, where you can find private space for a call, what the Wi-Fi password is, cofounder Matthew Weaver said.

The model has shifted a bit since its 2018 launch: Before, WEach Seats only partnered with restaurants that weren’t open during the day, but found that users wanted to be able to order food while they worked. Now, it connects with restaurants that are open as usual but happen to have more private areas, such as Black Sheep’s second-floor space.

As Weaver sees it, his company, a 2019 PSL Accelerator participant, is solving the very practical problem of remote workers wanting to work cheaply in a reliable space with small-but-meaningful perks, like free coffee. The social benefit is just one element of all that.

Matthew Weaver