Turkey’s internet cafes rapidly vanish amid broader trend of small business closures

Amidst crushing inflation, 360 internet cafes were forced to shutter in recent months, mirroring a broader uptick in small business closures in Turkey.

Duvar English

360 internet cafes were forced to shutter, with only 6 new ones opening, Istanbul’s President of the Chamber of Internet Cafes, İlhan Taşkıran said to the daily Hürriyet on March 25.

The closure of internet cafes mirrors a broader trend of small business closures across Turkey.

Over 111,000 small businesses closed in 2023, statistics from The Turkish Tradesmen and Craftsmen (TESK) show, while new openings decreased by nearly 20,000 between 2022 and 2023.

Taşkıran attributes the closures to mounting inflation, soaring rents, and the widespread use of smartphones, making it increasingly challenging for internet cafe holders to keep their heads above water.

“To open an internet cafe, you must invest in at least 20 computers. This wasn’t a problem when the investment per computer was 15,000 liras. However, this has now reached 80,000 liras. No businessperson can afford such an investment from scratch,” Taşkıran said, further highlighting the financial strains faced by internet cafe operators needing to upgrade their aging computer systems.

“When computers become outdated, young people don’t come anymore,” he added.

In Feb. 2024, Turkey’s annual inflation soared to nearly 70%, according to official statistics. However, critics believe that the actual figures are substantially higher.

A contributing factor to these closures is escalating rents. Unlike housing rents, which are subject to a 25% yearly rent cap, workplace rents follow Turkey’s official inflation statistics, offering less protection and sharper rent hikes.

These developments have resulted in Turkey’s internet cafes plummeting from 27,000 during its heyday in the mid-2000s to only 5,000 nowadays, according to Taşkıran, adding that those still operational focus on gaming to attract customers.

"Internet cafes are currently still popular in areas such as Esenyurt, Bağcılar and Bahçelievler" Taşkıran said, referring to several densely populated districts on Istanbul’s European side.

"Most of them transformed into gaming halls," he continued, noting that the monthly earnings of a hall equipped with 100 computers vary between 400,000 and 600,000 liras.

(English version by Wouter Massink)