Live on Air is a recently opened “Louisiana-American bistro” at 335 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. When you eat dinner there, it is live-streamed to the restaurant’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you agree to be interviewed on camera, you can get 10 percent off your check. Either way, the menu’s fine print points out that Live on Air can "use your likeness, mannerism, and voice without compensation or credit." The Verge went there recently to see what it feels like to eat in front of the entire connected world.
Kaitlyn Tiffany: Last Friday, Lizzie, The Verge staff photographer Amelia Krales, and I had a really special night on the town on the edge of Park Slope in a voodoo-themed bistro. Specifically, the voodoo-themed bistro was called Live on Air and it was also a live-streaming-themed bistro inspired by the 1998 Jim Carrey film The Truman Show. For some background, that’s a film about a man who doesn’t know his entire life and world is just a facade constructed for the purpose of a popular 24-hour live stream television program. It’s a psychological horror film, but Live on Air is just a moderately pleasant restaurant where you’re perfectly aware you’re being filmed so it’s fine.
The owner, Joe Barbour, says the last couple of years have been personally thrilling for him because they’ve seen the advent of Facebook Live, Meerkat, and Periscope — all the technology he needed to make a live stream restaurant a reality without paying zillions of dollars for professional equipment.
Lizzie Plaugic: After deciding on a location in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights, it took Barbour only four months to go from empty space to den of perpetual live-streaming (with voodoo-themed decor). Here’s the current setup: One camera and a mic pointed behind the bar, one camera near tables at the front of the restaurant, one near the back by a small stage (for open mic nights, karaoke, comedy) and one outside the restaurant, filming unwitting passersby. And it’s a small space, so basically anywhere you go you’ll be captured on an ever-running Periscope stream. Except the bathroom. You could always hide in the bathroom.
KT: Our first question for Barbour was obviously if people use the live stream setup to execute internet pranks — he said they haven’t yet but if someone were to moon the camera or rob him live on air that would be the “best possible thing,” from a publicity standpoint. (Don’t rob him!) The whole time I was eating it was hard not to think about whether I should pretend to rob Live on Air as a friendly favor.
LP: Here are some other thoughts we had while eating at Live on Air:
- Who is watching this live stream?
- I hope no one is watching this live stream.
- Is it standard practice for Live on Air patrons to watch their own streams upon meal completion?
- Because this meal would not make good reality TV and I’m not sure if that’s my fault or the restaurant’s fault.
- Would things be better or worse if tonight was karaoke night?
- What kind of person would do karaoke at a restaurant that gets its lifeblood from a public live stream?
- What would be the best song to sing on a live stream?
- Would a celebrity do this?
- Am I a celebrity?
- If we leave suddenly will the Periscope viewers be disappointed? Or will no one care?
KT: Personally, Lizzie, I retweeted the live stream and told people to watch it, so it’s possible that I caused some of your concerns directly. Sorry! The joke is on me because I was interviewed against my will and panicked 8 to 12 times while live on the air in Live on Air.
Here are seven situations in which you would want to eat at Live on Air, off the top of our heads:
- You love The Truman Show!
- You’re frequently framed for crimes around dinnertime and need a reliable alibi almost constantly.
- To do internet pranks.
- You just moved to New York and your mom wants to watch you eat dinner in a public space without incident.
- You already vlog all your meals anyway and this just frees up your hands in a convenient way.
- You just skim-read The Circle and have embraced a good, harmonious new way of life — sharing everything, because sharing is caring.
- You’re on a first date and you want to be able to watch back your performance afterwards with friends and accept critiques.
Here are seven situations in which you might not want to eat at Live on Air:
- You’re hiding from one or several people, including the law.
- You’re on a first date with someone who has explicitly mentioned they would not like to eat dinner on a live stream.
- You’re being interviewed for a job at Snapchat.
- Bad hair day.
- You have a tendency to get unidentifiable green things stuck between your teeth.
- You just read The Circle all the way through and are trying to go off the grid because you’re now trapped in the mindset of a social media dystopia.
- You’re a ghost.
Is being live-streamed any different than the incessant Instagram and “RLRT” documentation people already do when they dine with friends? Sort of, because there’s no way to yell “delete that, I look hideous!” There’s also no way to make it look like you’re having fun if you’re not, which is sort of the point of most curated social media presences.
Ultimately it’s up to you, but if you do go to Live on Air we recommend a pre-dinner pit-stop at the Park Slope Wine Shop directly across the street because Live on Air does not yet have a liquor license. Honestly, the food is very affordable and you might have a nice time.
Live on Air is now open (and on the air!) from 5PM to 10PM every day and will soon be open for weekend brunch.
Photography by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge