Where remote means the other end of the bar

The first thing I check on when ringing Remote Lounge's publicity coordinator is the bathrooms. There are no Webcams there, right?

Nope, no cameras in the bathroom, he assures me.

They're about the only media-free location in the East Village cocktail bar, which seeks to stand out in the New York City nightlife clutter with a gimmick for the Internet age: More than 60 cameras track all activity within the bar, broadcasting the scene on monitors that dominate the space and on the two dozen "cocktail consoles" scattered throughout.

The 2001-esque consoles are the nerve center of Remote. On a chilly Thursday night, I'm able to snag one within minutes of entering the bar, accompanied by my friends John and Fahmi. Armed with bottles of Original Sin cider and some sort of glowing cranberry-orange concoction devised by Fahmi, we quickly turn our attention to the consoles' main attraction: the joystick.

Remote's streaming video system (version 1.15, the consoles inform us) lets patrons flip through several dozen channels, panning around the lounge for attractive fellow bar-goers and exhibitionist acts. If you see anything you like, one push of a console button lets you snap a free low-res digital picture, available for your (and anyone else's) viewing pleasure at Remote's Web site.

The lounge bills itself as an experiment in social interaction. The décor is consciously retro-futuristic, and Remote's publicity hyperbole is filled with spiel about techno-sociologists and the egalitarian redeployment of Big Brother equipment in a "telepresence environment."

For all that jargon-laden seriousness -- or perhaps because of it -- Remote is more about the fetish aspects and appearance of technology than actually using technology. Patrons chatting on cell phones drastically outnumber those using the bar's console-to-console phone system, and the units lack features no true geek would be without, like an instant messaging system. If you spy someone you like on the Webcams you can push a button and zap them a greeting, but if they respond you still have to chat them up face-to-face. Well, screen-to-screen.

"You agree that you have no expectation of privacy for any acts or statements on these premises," advises a sign just inside Remote's small lobby. The warning sets a suitably dramatic tone, which is what Remote is really about.

Its genesis is part of Silicon Alley's most notorious soap opera, the very public doings of tech millionaire Josh Harris, who created one more-or-less successful dot-com (Jupiter Media Metrix Inc.) and one pricey flop (Pseudo, a Net network that burned through an estimated US$35 million during its profitless six-year existence).

After Pseudo's demise, Harris switched tracks from entrepreneur to performance artist and wired his downtown loft with an extensive camera network to broadcast his every move on WeLiveInPublic.com. (The loft, rather infamously, did have Webcams in the bathrooms -- and the cats' litterbox.) The trio behind Remote, who do business as Controlled Entropy Ventures (CEV), developed and ran the technology underpinning WeLiveInPublic.com, which died after three months and a tell-all article newspaper article by Harris' suddenly-ex girlfriend. CEV redeployed its software and designs into Remote, which opened a year later. Franchises are in the works. While nothing is finalized yet, plans for Chicago and Las Vegas are under way, according to CEV partner Luke Vahle.

It's hard to see cool, plastic-y Remote becoming anyone's favorite neighborhood haunt, and it's too geeky to become a true scene venue for New York's fashionistas. Still, the drinks are cheap, the bar menu (version .90) intriguing -- octopus balls, anyone? -- and the atmosphere surprisingly friendly. Deciphering the consoles is an easy way to bond with nearby patrons.

And then there's the cameras. Voyeurism has its charms. As I head to the bar to settle my tab, I glance at the row of monitors overhead -- and catch the usually shy Fahmi and John sneaking a kiss. Had I been a bit quicker with the camera button, I might have even snagged a snapshot to prove it. Remote's online photo gallery may wreak havoc for those sneaking illicit liaisons, but it certainly offers excellent fodder for morning-after gossip.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stacy Cowley

Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?