Since flirting has gone online, with a new, networked generation “poking” people on Facebook, “liking” each other on Tumblr and “nudging” crushes on Twitter, how can the average iPhone-wielding tech freak take his (or her) seduction game offline? Brian August has a few ideas.
“You see some smokin’ hot girl on a Saturday night and you don’t have that something that breaks the ice,” explained Mr. August, a 47-year-old former digital media attorney for NBCUniversal who has spent the last year and a half turning Webster Hall (yes, that Webster Hall, the labyrinthine nightclub on East 11th Street, known for its live rock shows and DJ nights) into a hot spot for the more wired (and nerdy) among us. He was sitting on a bench inside the 123-year-old club with The Observer.
“Beautiful, geeky girls, they want to talk to that geeky guy,” he said. “But, the guys, they just don’t know how to deal with that.
“What about what we do online, with a text message, could we do it here?” he wondered, scooching closer to The Observer and looking up at a spot on the wall where he imagined a screen could be. “How about a live Twitter-like feed on a screen—you’re sitting next to her, and you’re both looking at the screen; it’s easy to use your geekness.” He pulled his pink BlackBerry from his pocket to mime punching in a text message. “Say, ‘Hey you, in the pink skirt—meet me at the bar in the Marlin room and I’ll buy you a martini.”
So, bring social networking into the club?
“That’s what I’m talking about,” he said.
But real-time Twittering is just the beginning for Webster Hall as conceived by Mr. August, who has a round, bald head, wears dark-rimmed glasses and sports a navy blue satin Yankees jacket, and who has dubbed himself “President of Webster Hall Digital.” The club’s techie makeover includes setting up a wall of 65-inch HD screens behind the ballroom’s upstairs stage, making the entire building wi-fi–enabled, creating Facebook and Twitter accounts and wooing tech companies to book big events at the club. (He’s already nabbed one: In June, the club will host a giant party for Digg, the aggregation site known for its tech events, as part of Internet Week.)
He also plans on creating an iPhone application that he hopes will reinvent the nightlife experience at the venue. Users of the Webster Hall app would be able to browse Facebook profiles of fellow revelers and eventually buy each other drink tickets (romantic!), upgrade to VIP status so they can skip the line outside and even arrange rendezvous at various spots in the club, which has three floors and five bars, lounges and stages.
“It’d allow people to communicate in the real world how they socialize online,” said Mr. August. He plans to release the first version of the application within the next few months.
THERE ARE, perhaps, unexpected changes at Webster Hall, which was built in 1886 and was designated an official city landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission just last year. Compared to its modern meatpacking district competitors—with their glittery new buildings, fancy “green” technology and new-media capacities—Webster Hall is old school, a scrappy underdog of the nightlife scene. Before working there, Mr. August thought of the club “as a place where you go dancing like once a year as some kind of strange night out.” But Webster Hall’s owner, Lon Ballinger, eventually charmed Mr. August into bringing the building into the 21st century by recounting the building’s history as a meeting place for bohemians, gays, anti-fascists and unions, not to mention as a hangout for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Al Capone. Webster Hall was also the home of RCA’s East Coast recording studios. Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley recorded there. Lou Reed, The Ramones and Madonna held their early performances on Webster Hall stages.