Here’s a new level of bar replacement: Zoom happy hours — but with backgrounds of popular NYC bars. A new website called Virtualcheers.org lets customers download a background photo of 12 different bars in the city — including Williamsburg’s Loosie Rouge and Lower East Side’s Pretty Ricky’s — for group hangout sessions on the video platform.
Drinks are enjoyed at home, of course, but participants are encouraged to donate a virtual tab to the various bars’ relief funds that are all linked on the website. The backgrounds are otherwise free.
“Local bars and restaurants are part of the New York culture and when the quarantine hit, we realized how much we missed them and also how badly they were hit,” says Mihai Botarel, co-founder of Brooklyn-based ad agency RMX Creative, which launched the website. “We wanted to help ensure their survival, and video conferencing has become a key way to connect and socialize at this time.’’
Indeed, Zoom happy hours have become the norm now due to the ongoing shutdown on dining-in at restaurants and bars due to the coronavirus pandemic. And it’s not just happy hours: People are also getting together at online dance clubs, and there’s even an exclusive virtual club that charges a cover fee.
Botarel’s new website has now joined that mix of places offering a venue to socialize as a group online. Virtual Cheers only has 12 bars on the site right now, but other bars in the city are encouraged to join by sending an email to email@example.com with a business name, address and contact info, along with a funding platform link and a high resolution image.
Though New Yorkers will need to organize their own Virtual Cheers meetups on Zoom for now, Botarel is partnering with the Brooklyn media brand Convicts to host virtual events on Zoom and encourage further contributions. Some of the bars on the website are also doing takeout and delivery including Greenwich Village icon Dante and pizza spot Speedy Romeo’s.