On February 18, news broke that Austin would become one of the first U.S. cities to see bitcoin ATMs. Before location speculation could even start swirling, TechCrunch reported that Robocoin, the company behind the virtual currency ATM, would deposit the machine at HandleBar, a trendy watering hole at East Fifth and Brazos streets downtown.
“We received a call [from Robocoin on February 18] at around 5 o’clock,” says HandleBar co-owner Brett Vance. “They didn’t exactly tell us why they chose us, just that they were looking for cool places that had room. It’s not a normal ATM; it’s a big kiosk and we have the space.”
The bitcoin ATM, scheduled to go online February 20, will allow customers who use the digital currency to either exchange the bitcoins in their digital wallets for physical cash, or deposit cash in order to purchase more bitcoins. The kiosk will identify customers by scanning official government identification, such as a driver’s license or passport.
With a location in the middle of downtown — and just a few blocks from the epicenter of SXSW Interactive — HandleBar will be an accessible spot where tech geeks can take the machine for a spin. “We’re very excited. It’s a cool thing,” says Vance. “It’s going to be a big deal during SXSW.”
Although TechCrunch reported — and Robocoin was probably hoping — the Austin machine would be America’s first, other reports indicate that Albuquerque and Boston also received bitcoin ATMs earlier this week. Those were manufactured by Lamassu Inc.