Panera is a great place to meet. My local Panera is very welcoming to our group. No wine, though!
My book discussion group met at Panera for years, until they brought in a live band on the very night we always met. We couldn't hear ourselves think because the music was so loud. Ended up switching to Atlanta Bread.
Some really great ideas here, thanks! I tried the local yarn shop because basically I am the only "real" knitter in the group. I'm trying to get my friends into it. They don't have yarn or needles. Of course I could share, but it's better if they see all the choices and get excited about making a project. Yarn shop didn't work out. I completely understand why...not much return for them having to stay open later than usual, and they can't leave us unsupervised. I get it. The library needs a certificate of insurance to let us use a meeting room! I'm going to try the senior center next. Wish me luck and thanks for all the great ideas!