Bitcoin creeping into Pittsburgh


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Fukuda, a Japanese restaurant in Bloomfield, on Wednesday proudly posted a message to its Facebook and Twitter followers: "Ladies and gentlemen, Fukuda has officially accepted bitcoin as payment for Omakase this evening."

Omakase, for the uninitiated, is a "chef's tasting menu" offered by the sushi restaurant, said owner Hoon Kim.

And bitcoin? To hear some tell it, bitcoin is the future of currency.

"It simply makes more sense," said Andy Tepper, who was Fukuda's first customer to pay in bitcoins. "The only reason that merchants still use MasterCard and Visa is because the population hasn't merged over to bitcoin."

Much of the population, however, probably has yet to hear of bitcoin.

According to its website, bitcoin is a digital, encrypted currency developed in 2009 by a person or persons using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The selling point is that it allows for instant peer-to-peer transactions all over the world without relying on a central bank or a government, unlike traditional currencies.

It's still unusual to find a business that accepts bitcoin, though an increasing number of places do, such as Overstock.com. Last week, the ToonSeum, Downtown, announced that it would start accepting bitcoin for admission. Director Joe Wos said Friday the museum is still awaiting its first bitcoin customer.

To get started using bitcoin, a person or a business needs to install a virtual "wallet," similar to an app, on a phone or computer. Then, bitcoins can be acquired in a variety of ways, such as by purchasing bitcoins with U.S. dollars through websites such as Coinbase.com.

Or, as in Bloomfield this week, by selling a sushi dinner.

Mr. Kim, 38, opened Fukuda in the fall of 2012, and three weeks ago, his restaurant created a bitcoin wallet and announced it was open for bitcoin business.

"I'm always interested in being at the forefront of technology," Mr. Kim said.

Mr. Tepper, president of an online gaming company in Ross, loves sushi and was an early adopter of bitcoin. He learned that Fukuda was merging his two interests and visited there for dinner Wednesday.

The bill was $181. He paid in bitcoin. Since the bitcoin transaction process at Fukuda is still in its early stages, Mr. Tepper had to pay the bill after he returned to his office in Ross, sending the current bitcoin conversion -- the $181 bill converted to .22 bitcoin -- to the address of the Fukuda account.

The $40 tip, however, Mr. Tepper paid in cash. The waitresses told him they do not accept bitcoin.

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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