Singles Bars: Has Tinder Doomed Them to Extinction?

Like Kimye, Tinder has divided the nation. Some agree with The New York Times that social dating apps like Tinder are relatively benign: “It has not fundamentally changed the local dating scene so much as quickened and coarsened its already abrupt, aggressive nature.”

Others, like this Reddit user, regard Tinder as perhaps the very worst thing to happen to dating since the hems of skirts were hoisted above the ankle: “Gone are the days of wondering if you will kiss on the first date.”

Now, I’ve used social dating apps in the past, but with pretty dreadful results. (Here’s a tip: never agree to meet anyone who’s profile has them pictured proudly alongside a tractor, a gun or a baby, and definitely never all three at once. I know that narrows the playing field for you Tinder users in Texas, but you’ll thank me in the long run).

I eventually found that like travelling, the journey there was the most rewarding part of the Tinder user experience – i.e., that scrolling through the Ikea-catalog of faces and shirtless pics was equally as enjoyable as the actually hook up, and often times more so (especially if it turns out your Tinder date has lied on their profile at every available opportunity).

After about a year, I turned my back on dating apps to return to the tried-and-tested bar-side game of chance. But I don’t regret using Tinder. And neither do I think my abstinence from Tinder emblematic of a wider mass exodus. Glance across any bar of an evening and you’ll likely witness a good handful of people with that Jack Nicholson look in their eye hungrily swiping left and right on their smartphone.

The question I keep turning over in my mind, therefore, is this: With a shiny new generation of hunters and scavengers invading the dating scene—a generation who’s entire social identity has been shaped behind a computer screen and a phone—are singles bars (and the way of dating traditionally found in these dens of inequity) doomed to go the way of the dinosaur?

“It’s very different now compared to before Tinder first came on the scene,” said Chrystal Qatari, 31, owner of a popular Los Angeles singles bar on the New York side of Pasadena, when one Sunday evening I asked whether her trade has been affected by the stratospheric rise in popularity of Tinder.

“Only the other day, I was speaking to the owner of another bar just up the street from here,” Qatari continued, “and he was saying that he’s suffered a drop in sales of about 60 percent since Tinder began. People just aren’t coming out to the bars like they used to, to pick up,” she said.

And Qatari has noticed another phenomenon since Tinder reorganized the way we hook-up: Men have stopped approaching women at the bar. “It’s very rare that I see a guy approach a girl at the bar now. And if someone does, he’s usually an older guy.”

Lauren Floyd, 23 and a bartender, agrees with Qatari – to an extent.

“The only guys who approach me are the weirdo creepy older types I’m not attracted to – but it’s always been like that, even before Tinder,” said Floyd, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Lupita Nyong’o. “The guys I actually fancy still never approach me. I have to approach them.”

Floyd admitted that she used to be on Tinder. “I deleted if after about three hours.” And while she and her friends still prefer to go to bars and clubs to hook up with someone, she sees the two modes of dating as divided along age lines.

“I think it’s definitely an age thing. The older people, late 20’s, early 30’s, they still prefer to meet people in person,” she said. “But younger, they’re all into Tinder and whatever else is around. Me and my friend’s aren’t, but the younger generation generally is.”

To see whether these opinions were commonly held, I headed to a bar a mere stone’s throw from Venice Beach one lonely Monday evening. There, one of the bartenders, Susannah Diamond, 27, told me she found it doubtful that Tinder was to blame for the aforementioned bar’s 60% drop in trade.

“It’s not hurt business at all here,” she said, arguing that because bars are the best place to meet a hook-up, little has changed since the advent of Tinder. “I think if anything, Tinder has helped trade.”

As for Tinder creating some sort of express-lane to bed, Diamond—who doesn’t use Tinder—believes that hooking up through an app is no easier than at a bar: “I’ve never thought it was that easy anyway. It can’t be.”

Markus Cole, 38, teaches breathing and meditation to the beach-side yoga set. He doesn’t use Tinder either, but his nephew does. And Cole has a philosophical take on the whole dirty business of dating.

“I think it’s all going to come full circle. I think that more and more people are going to use apps like Tinder more and more often, that eventually it will reach critical mass where it will implode and we’ll see things go back to how they were before,” he said, creating with his hands what appeared to be a football-sized swirling blob.

And then Diamond came along and stuck a pin in the bubble of my entire piece: “You know, I don’t really think that singles bars really exist though, do you? What exactly is a singles bar?”

Note: Chrystal Qatari and Susannah Diamond asked that I change their real names.

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