While hotels are taking over downtown, the number of independent coffee shops on the peninsula is barely holding steady. Since the start of 2018, Charleston has lost Bad Wolf Coffee, Revelator Coffee, Welkin Coffee and Eclectic Café & Vinyl.
Eclectic has already been succeeded by another café, 132 Spring. But much like fellow newcomer Babas on Cannon, which at 3 p.m. suspends espresso service in order to prepare for reopening two hours later as a bar, 132 Spring shuts its doors at 4 p.m.
It’s not an ideal scenario for creative types who treat coffeehouses as their de facto offices. And, in downtown Charleston, the problem is exacerbated by a relative shortage of co-working spaces.
Of course, roving laptop toters could go to a library. But libraries are awfully quiet, and few of them encourage patrons to eat and drink in their carrels. (The Charleston County Public Library just last year lifted its ban on food.)
Fortunately, though, there’s another option. Remember the hotel boom? While hotels may intend to reserve their shared spaces for paying guests, if hoteliers persist in pitching their restaurants to locals, they can’t be shocked by locals wanting to enjoy their lobbies, too.
In short, the upshot of incessant hotel construction might well be free Wi-Fi, clean bathrooms and electrical outlets. You just need to know where to find them. Here, an un-officed worker’s guide to downtown Charleston’s newest hotels, listed from least to most useful.
The Spectator Hotel, 67 State St.
Apparently The Spectator’s been expecting you, since its property is pretty much impenetrable. The front doors are unlocked, but there is nowhere for an uninvited guest to hide, let alone set up a computer. The only visible seating is a waiting room-style arrangement of upholstered chairs directly in front of the check-in desk. If you can work there, you can probably work anywhere, so this column isn’t applicable to you.
Hotel Bennett, 404 King St.
The newest and most imposing entry in downtown Charleston’s hotel lineup, Hotel Bennett offers a range of amenities unavailable elsewhere, such as a self-playing piano and a bar that’s mostly pink. Also of note: Electrical outlets are scattered throughout the first floor, but not one of them is in the vicinity of a flat surface. If the Bennett team had its druthers, you’d take your workaday cares to the hotel’s streetside café and trade them for a slice of opera cake. Wi-Fi isn’t provided, so you might as well grab a fork.
Grand Bohemian Hotel, 55 Wentworth St.
Much like Hotel Bennett, the Grand Bohemian is laid out so the only area that could conceivably double as a workspace is the attached café. Maison Café, a Starbucks-branded operation, is slightly more suitable for screen time than the resolutely twee La Patisserie, but the real draw here is the bathroom situation. Campers will appreciate the stylish, single-stall options.
The Restoration, 75 Wentworth St.
The door to The Library, The Restoration’s bookish take on a guest lounge, is sometimes inadvertently left open. But ignoring the key card requirement literally crosses a line. Rather than trespass, check out the open-to-the-public Rise Coffee Bar, which offers better coffee and baked goods than the hotel cafes name-checked above.
More significantly, it’s home to perhaps the nicest outdoor workspace in Charleston (Rise only stocks to-go cups, which might be a hint you don’t want to waste time inside.) The patio is sandwiched between two buildings that block the sun’s heat and glare, and the Wi-Fi’s free.
Hyatt House Charleston, 560 King St.
This hotel probably deserves to be in the top spot, but I’m secreting it away here in hopes that most readers will skip right past it and I can keep the Hyatt to myself. With fewer boutique ambitions than most of the hotels on this list, the Hyatt House allots a huge portion of its broadly windowed ground floor to continental breakfast service. But once all of the tourists have had their yogurt and orange juice, the tables and nearby electrical outlets are just there for the taking. Did I write these words there? Maybe.
The Dewberry, 334 Meeting St.
Until The Dewberry finally received clearance to open Citrus Club on its roof, its downstairs bar was commonly called “the bar at The Dewberry.” But the lounge’s formal name is The Living Room, which was chosen to convey how the hotel hoped locals would use it. In other words, you’re supposed to bring your laptop to this mid-century modern reverie: That’s why there are USB ports and electrical outlets built into the heavy wooden table near the door.
Even better, when you’re ready to knock off, you’re already at a bar considered among the best in the country. (And if you’re not finished working when it opens at 3 p.m., you still get the complementary caramel corn. Don’t forget to tip.)