BURTON, MI — John Cofhlin III said a new internet café he’s opening in Burton will provide a service for residents and a place for them to congregate in the neighborhood.
His application to open the new business at the corner of Fenton and Maple roads in one of two suites was recently approved by the city’s planning commission.
The cafe is the first Cofhlin has opened in Michigan. After 18 years in the gaming business, in 2002 he began opening arcades and internet sweepstakes cafés in Florida and Georgia.
“I heard it was a new territory and I came up here,” said Cofhlin, noting a saturated market in Ohio while other markets such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and California are noticing an increase in business.
“The fact that there were some players up here already was plus.”
Cofhlin said patrons at the new café purchase phone cards, with sweepstakes points coming with the purchase of the cards — much like businesses such as McDonald’s offering game pieces during a promotional period.
Patrons may then either swipe their cards at a front counter to see if they were a predetermined winner or check by swiping their card on an available computer terminal where they can play games strictly for entertainment purposes, Cofhlin said, or search the web.
Burton Mayor Paula Zelenko said “The gaming aspect is a grey area” in terms of the cafés, said Burton Mayor Paula Zelenko. Flint Business Center in Flint recently closed after receiving a cease and desist letter from the state Attorney General’s Office.
“You can’t deny it with a lack of attorney general’s opinion,” she said, while noting planning commission members are tasked with regulating zoning parameters and not the legality of businesses.
Cofhlin said he’s providing a tangible, taxable product by selling phone cards, and hopes it will bring some economic boost to the area.
“It’s hopefully bringing some vitality into a depressed area, such as Flint,” he said, stating as many as six local people would be hired to work at the facility when it opens, including police officers for security purposes.
Once equipment is in place, Cofhlin hopes to open by the first week of June with an inviting atmosphere for residents.
“I want a business for the community where people can come in and socialize. You see a lot of the same faces every day with first-rate customer service,” he said. “I’m trying to be the Cheers of the business world.”