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‘It’s completely invasive’: New app lets you spy on SF bars to see if they’re poppin’

People mingle inside a bar.
Bar patrons mingle inside Trinity Bar & Restaurant in the Marina Thursday. Owner Johnny Metheny said he plans to offer live streams of DJs and live music through the 2Night app. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

A startup thought it found a simple way to help party people make the most of San Francisco’s nightlife. But bargoers worry they’re being broadcast on other people’s phones when they’re trying to let loose.

Now, the company is scrambling to save face.

The founders of 2Night, which until Wednesday had been called NightEye, thought they could do for drinkers and clubbers what Surfline does for surfers. The company has a network of cameras across San Francisco venues that lets app users see how busy events are in real-time so revelers can decide if the vibe is right for them. The app also lists upcoming live Bay Area events and links to the Instagram accounts of featured artists.

“Nightlife in San Francisco and other cities is currently very difficult to navigate,” co-founder Lucas Harris said in a phone interview. “It was blatant to me that everyone was wanting a solution like this—to get the vibe that they are after.”

The idea owes a lot to Surfline, which lets surfers check the quality of waves on beaches around the world.

“The single thing that I can provide that is most useful is the livestreams,” said Harris, who grew up in Portola Valley and graduated from Pitzer College last year. “You can find out the most information” from what the camera reveals.

Since its debut this spring, 2Night has had a narrow scope. It currently has relationships with five to eight venues, including The Blue Light and Mayes Oyster House in San Francisco and Kip’s Bar and Grill as well as Club Cali in Berkeley, where it can stage livestreams on Friday and Saturday nights.

Harris said venues partnered with 2Night control when their cameras are switched on and that the livestreams are mainly meant to offer a glimpse of live shows at bars, clubs and other event venues. Harris said he hopes 2Night will later expand to offer streams on Thursdays and Sundays, too.

About 3,000 have used its web-based service, with about 300 turning into repeat users, Harris said. For now, everything is free.

A webpage titled "Discover NightLife Live" features live cameras from "Club Cali" and "DJ Classic." Upcoming events include Anthony Jadeanya's Rock Show and Rhonda Crouch's concert.
A photo taken of the 2Night app shows in addition to livestreams, it features local artists and their upcoming performances. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

While Harris was striving for something akin to Surfline’s usefulness, critics said it was reminiscent of other tech debacles, such as SceneTap, which aimed to deliver livestreams and real-time info about the male-to-female ratio in bars in 2012.

“Lemme guess, some techbro has this innovative idea of being the rent-seeking middleman charging venues and bands to run pay-per-view streams,” said Jamie Zawinski, the owner of DNA Lounge, a club and music venue in SoMa.

While the DNA Lounge offers livestreams of DJ sets, Zawinski said by email that what he does bears no resemblance to 2Night: “‘That Guy’ has had that idea roughly every six months for two decades.”

The not-so-original idea of livestreaming from a bar was immediately labeled in angry comments on 2Night’s Instagram account as an invasion of privacy.

“You should be able to let loose in a bar where Big Brother isn’t watching you,” said Lauren S., a woman in her mid-30s who declined to share her last name to protect her privacy.

Lauren told The Standard she also thought the app was unnecessary.

“Just go to a fucking bar,” Lauren said. “And if it’s not cool you go to another bar.”

Other customers thought the app would be handy and waved off privacy concerns.

“If you have a credit card, they already know everything about you,” said Dan Berg, 53.

At a live performance Friday at Potrero Hill venue Bottom of the Hill, concertgoers seemed more receptive to being on camera.

“That would be sick!” said Vacaville resident Seth Evans, 23, bumping his head to a Nina Durango performance. “It would be a huge boost for them.”

Evans’ date, Nova Ford, said a livestream could help promote bands to people who can’t travel to see the performance. During the pandemic performers and live venues also used livestreams.

Standing away from the mosh pit Berkeley resident Alex Sherman, 33, said he was only “casually concerned” that he was in a livestream, given that there was no sign or other disclosure he could be on camera.

“But I don’t really care,” Sherman said. “I’d assume I’m in public.”

Some performers were supportive, too.

Ken “DJ Classic” Wilton, 52, believes that the app’s ability to stream live performances will expose his music to a wider audience and help him attract more followers.

“Being able to see and hear what’s going on, I think that’s valuable,” Wilton said.

Initially, Harris was skeptical of privacy concerns and pointed out that drinking and clubbing hotspots are hardly secluded settings.

“I continue to believe that you don’t go to a bar or club for privacy,” Harris said. “You are surrounded by strangers.”

The image shows a computer screen streaming a video with colorful lights labeled "Live streams from SF bars and Clubs." Comments on the right criticize the stream.
A photo of an 2Night Instagram post shows users sounding off in the comments of calling the idea of livestreaming from bars intrusive. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Still, Harris and co-founder Francesco Bini said they’ve listened to the criticism and made changes to address the concerns, such as adjusting cameras to blur the faces of unsuspecting customers. He added that the livestreams are not saved.

“All livestreams that you can access inside of the application are blurred so you cannot identify specific people,” he said Wednesday. He said in a text late Friday that 2Night intends to keep the streams blurred until they identify a “more visually apealing [sic] solution which is equally privacy-preserving.”

The Standard viewed four active livestreams of Bay Area venues on the 2Night app Friday night: The Blue Light and Mayes Oyster House in San Francisco and Kip’s Bar and Grill as well as Club Cali in Berkeley.

The image on each stream was blurred out to the point that the faces of anyone standing more than a few feet from the camera were indistinguishable and the audio, while muffled, was clear enough to make out what music a venue was playing, such as rock or hip-hop.

The company is also considering blurring only the faces of audience members while keeping the performers in focus.

But for Trinity patron Jessica Gomez, blurring faces isn’t enough to assuage her concern over being taped while she’s sitting at a bar.

“I used to like this place, but now I want to leave,” Gomez said. “I feel weird, being recorded.”

‘Bad in so many ways’

In addition to the customers, some venue owners were irritated that their establishments were being listed on 2Night even though they’d never asked for the placement.

Rico Avila, operator of White Rabbit, told The Standard he had been trying to reach the company since last week when he learned from a concerned patron that the Cow Hollow bar was included in a list of “nearby bars” on the app without their permission.

“We reached out to them—no answer,” Avila said on Wednesday.

He said the bar’s social media team commented on a 2Night Instagram post, saying that White Rabbit was not associated with the livestream app and asking that the bar’s name be removed. The comment was deleted. The Standard sent multiple messages to Avila asking him to provide screenshots of the comment posted by his social media team but did not receive a response before publication.

“We see that they’re seeing our messages,” Avila said. “We’re hoping that we don’t have to go to further lengths to remove any mention of us.”

Avila said White Rabbit would “never” allow livestream cameras, calling the idea “bad in so many ways.”

“It’s completely invasive for one,” he said. “It could encourage bad actors to use it. That’s another major concern. … Liability is a major reason, you know, it opens us up to lots of very precarious legal situations.”

Blurring people’s faces in the video footage “doesn’t help” with those issues, he said.

Harris, in a voice message sent Friday, said he has not seen any messages from Avila. He said he left his contact information at the bar “weeks ago” but has not heard back and that he would remove White Rabbit from the app.

A man with blond hair, wearing a striped shirt and puffy jacket, holds a bottle in a bar. The background shows people, shelves of liquor, and pride flags.
2Night app co-creator Lucas Harris says he was initially skeptical of privacy concerns because bars and clubs are hardly secluded settings. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

“I have not seen either,” Harris said in a text Friday. “If it was simply comment it’s more possible I missed it, they should reach out properly.”

By late Friday, the bar had been removed from the 2Night app.

‘Eventually, it’s going to help’

Other bar operators like Mayes Oyster House owner Matt Corvi are all-in on 2Night.

“I like the idea. I think it’s fun,” said Corvi, who started streaming with 2Night about a month ago. “Eventually, it’s going to help the bar and eventually help the kids decide where they want to go. I think that’s the main purpose.”

He admitted that he hadn’t really considered that people would take issue with being streamed without their consent, pointing out that they’re in a public place and these establishments already have security cameras.

“These questions are kind of like, turn this around to make it seem like it’s weird and creepy,” Corvi said. “It’s too bad that people feel like that, you know. That’s not the intention. The intention is to promote more business and get people to come out. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs are dying in San Francisco. We need help.”

Stephanie K. Baer contributed reporting.

Correction: This story has been updated to note that Boto Restaurant & Bar does not plan to offer livestreams and Trinity Bar & Restaurant plans to but has not yet installed the cameras.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at
Michael McLaughlin can be reached at