Charging cellphones becoming easier at Ohio venues

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — One of the most popular questions fielded by owner Chris Hale and his staff at My Bar 161 has nothing to do with happy-hour appetizer specials or a particular brand of beer.

More commonly, they hear: Do you have a phone charger under the bar I can use?

So, when Hale opened Hale's Ales & Kitchen last month near Hilliard, he installed a phone-charging station on the south wall of the bar and restaurant.

The wooden console, which bears the bar's logo, boasts chargers for various types of cellphones and tablets.

"Everybody in this day and age is looking for a charge," Hale said. "Almost everyone who walks in here is using it and plugging in their phones for at least a little while."

With society's increasing desire to stay connected, more businesses, venues and events are offering opportunities for customers or visitors to power up dead or dying batteries on electronic gadgets.

At Huntington Park, baseball fans can secure their phones in a goCharge locker without missing the game.

Attendees at the recently ended Ohio State Fair could choose among four charging stations (offered by various sponsors) spread throughout the fairgrounds.

And music festivals — including central Ohio's Rock on the Range and Tennessee's Bonnaroo — have added charging stations to their lineups in recent years.

For those in need of a charge, the stations provide a welcome boost.

At a recent Columbus Clippers game, Bob Rutter's iPhone 4 died before the first pitch had been thrown.

"I was in the middle of texting my wife, so it was unfortunate timing," said the 48-year-old, who was at Huntington Park with friends.

Without the free-to-use kiosk — which sponsor Mount Carmel Health System set up last season on the outer walkway on the third-base side of the stadium — the Grandview Heights resident said he would have wasted time trying to borrow a charger from a stadium employee.

"Or I would have been out of luck," he said, "because — guess what? — there are no pay phones here."

Rutter put his phone in one of the nine kiosk cubbies, set a combination for the lock using the keypad and was back in his seat before the end of The Star-Spangled Banner.

As a sponsor of the ballpark, Mount Carmel decided to add the charging station as a way to help ward off emergency situations for fans and after a hospital employee's phone ran out of battery power at a corporate event at the park a few years ago, said Robyn Morton, the hospital's director of marketing.

"Phones are everywhere," Morton said. "They're really a lifeline. When I go to the game, I want to make sure my baby sitter can get ahold of me."

The console is almost always at least a third full, said Clippers General Manager Ken Schnacke.

Not all public phone-charging stations offer the convenience of lockboxes, but the various systems — whether homemade or purchased or leased through a vendor — usually have cords for a range of devices. (Some even charge laptops or cameras.)

On Aug. 1, Trish George spent roughly 20 minutes in the MetroPCS charging tent at the Ohio State Fair — which featured three tabletop consoles with 10 cords and myriad outlets.

She had forgotten to charge her iPhone 5 before arriving at the fairgrounds with her in-laws.

"This has been very beneficial to me, and it's free— which is even nicer," said George, of Wheelersburg, Ohio. "I would have been a little bit more panicked (without a charged phone) being away from the group."

The fair marked the first event at which MetroPCS, a wireless company, offered a charging station.

Partly a marketing ploy to draw people to the tent and partly a service to fairgoers, the console proved more popular than the company had anticipated, said Christina Jipson, a marketing specialist with MetroPCS.

"The worst thing you want to happen is your phone dies and someone is trying to get ahold of you," Jipson said.

Concessions by Cox — which offers charging stations at all of the events it hosts at its home office at the Ohio Expo Center or when it takes its services on the road — set up two stations at the state fair.

A little more than a year ago, Concessions by Cox purchased two charging stations from KwikBoost — mainly for employees to use —but immediately bought eight more to meet customer demand, said Betsy Koval, director of marketing.

The pedestal-like stations feature various cords mounted through a small board (an advertising opportunity) and a small ledge on which to rest a charging phone.

"The battery life for a cellphone doesn't last these days," Koval said. "You used to get two days out of a charge; now, you're lucky if you get eight hours."

At Hale's Ales & Kitchen, the charging station allows customers to stay connected well into the evening as they text friends to meet them or post photos of the bar on Instagram, said Hale, who is working to install a similar console at My Bar 161 on Columbus' northwest side.

"I thought it would be a fun addition," he said, "but I didn't think it would be used as much as it is."