Singles Bar on Steroids

Cameras and videophones break the ice.

by Photo: Michael Duva

HIP TO BE SQUARE
At New York's Remote Lounge, singles exchange video calls instead of phone numbers.
Photo: Michael Duva

"I'm here to meet girls," she says.

So ends my first conversation at the recently opened Remote Lounge in New York's East Village, a bar experience unlike any other (except for my crash and burn). The girl who brushes me off is cute, and after lengthy internal debate I'd made my virtual move--bringing her up on my video screen and calling her on the inter-table phone.

Sixty video cameras cover every nook and cranny of this place, sending footage to the 100 monitors and projection screens throughout. Each bar-goer sits on a stool at a control pod, a cross between Star Trek's helm and an arcade game. On top is a tiny video camera, one for every two seats. With a joystick, you can control any camera in the room--and anyone can aim yours at you.

You can also take pictures with them, which are immediately uploaded for later download. On the night I was there, the trigger-happy crowd took 2,013 guilt-free, voyeuristic shots. It's a strange trade-off: You give me your privacy, and I give you mine. The sign at the door spells it out: "You agree that you have no expectation of privacy for any acts or statements made on these premises."

Later in the evening, another girl calls me and we talk a little. But when I try to get her on my monitor, I lose the audio. She doesn't call again. When a similar thing happens a second time, I give up and start chatting with
the technology-challenged young woman sitting beside me.

It's strange, but this place does make meeting people easier. "Do you know how this works?" is a great icebreaker--even, perhaps especially, if the person is sitting right next to you.