Have you ever gone to a bar looking for a place to grab a quiet drink only to find that there’s a line out the door? Or, worse yet, have you ever taken your friends to your favorite hotspot and it’s dead-dead-dead? Now there’s an app to avoid that. Enterprising Angeleno Katie Weinstock and her partner Andrew Wagner-Trugman created Roo, a crowd-sourced app that allows its users to check in and report the scene at most nightlife venues. Think: Foursquare for nightlifers.
Katie and Andrew were finishing up their senior year at New York University just last year when they came up with the idea. “The conversation started as yet another morning-after rant where my partner and I would go through the lackluster events of the night before, from the long line at Spot #1, to the empty bar at Spot #2, to the taco truck we ended up at way too early on,” says Weinstock. “The conversation ended at the beginning of Roo: some way, somehow, to find out what bars are like before you get there.”
After the NYU graduates moved back home to Los Angeles, they set about making their app happen. Since Katie’s parents are entrepreneurs themselves—Katie’s dad Mike Weinstock is the VP of Design for Public School restaurants and Daily Grills—they had no problem with their daughter moving back in with them and not getting a 9-to-5 job right out of college. With the support of mentors and friends, the pair was able to save up for and work on their app which launched just last month.
Even though the app was inspired by the nightlife scene in New York, it made sense to them to kick it off in their hometown of L.A. “Ride-sharing platforms like Uber and Lyft have done their part to get more people out in L.A., but Angelenos are still guessing as to what the venue will be like that night when they cross town to check it out,” says Weinstock. “We want to make getting out of your PJs after a long day, or exploring a new part of L.A. worth it.”
The way the app works is that whenever you’re in the vicinity of a “roo-ported” bar—the venues are pulled from a venue API but they’d eventually want to crowdsource the data—a notification will pop up on your phone asking you how it is. Then you rate it on a scale of “Lame” to “Awesome”; also, is it packed or empty, are there a ton of babes or is it a “sausage fest,” or, more importantly, is there a tough door or long line?
Here are how a few bars currently rank:
- Where you’ll find “Paparazzi” (so, pretty much celebs): The Nice Guy
- Where you’ll find “Chill Vibes”: The Bungalow
- Where to go for “Live Music”: Villains Tavern
- Where to go early to avoid “Long Lines”: Good Times at Davey Wayne’s
Roo then gathers the reports and produces a heat map of which places are currently trending in the city so Angelenos can immediately see which ones are going off tonight. Warning: the more friends you have on the app the more susceptible you will be to FOMO. Weinstock has admitted this has been the case on many occasions when she’s compelled to go out after checking the app at home and seeing all her friends congregated at one bar.
But Roo wasn’t designed to give you FOMO-related anxiety attacks. Rather, its creators hope it gets Angelenos out trying new places every night. They plan to launch in New York City next, followed by Austin, San Francisco, and Boston.