Monday, October 09, 2006

Singles better in groups?

They met at P.J. Clarke's, the 120-year-old Manhattan pub at 55th and Third. Sharon was with four of her girlfriends; Ed was with two of his pals.

Love did not blossom that first night. Sharon and Ed did not leave arm in arm, searching for a justice of the peace who would marry them the following morning.

They talked. They had fun. They agreed to meet again.

"Looking back on it," Sharon Gaffney said on a recent Tuesday morning, "it was a much more comfortable way. We were able to be ourselves."

She eventually married the gentleman from that Irish bar in October 2004. As Internet dating exploded, her experience at P.J. Clarke's got Gaffney thinking. So many people go looking for their soul mates online; few go looking for their soul mates in groups.

On Aug. 1, Gaffney launched Lets, a Web site devoted to bringing groups of people together at bars.

"We wanted to take the best of what online dating and social networking could be to create the site," Gaffney said. "Make it safer, less pressure. Safety is a big thing right now, and with the group aspect there's safety in numbers."

The idea is simple. You visit the Web site, register with three or four of your friends, then search for other groups looking to paint the town. After choosing a bar (Gaffney has more than 100 places onboard), you send an invitation to another group.

Each member of both groups will receive the invitation. When two people from each group accept, the plans are set in motion.

Members are offered a fringe benefit if the meeting takes place on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. At New York bars, members are sent coupons that entitle them to a second round of drinks for free. In New Jersey, members are offered half-off a second round of drinks.

"I think it's been a really good response," Gaffney said.

Registration is free, but Gaffney said the Web site will turn into a subscription-based service later this fall. Whether it is popular enough to make the $9.95 per month cost worthwhile remains to be seen.

Gaffney said at present she is focusing on New Jersey's urban areas. If you don't want to cross the Hudson, your best bets for meeting out are Hoboken or Jersey City.

Eventually Gaffney would love to expand the site to include other cities. She has her eye on Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. "Areas where there's a high concentration of singles," Gaffney said.

It worked for her. Gaffney is trying to make it work for all the other singles out there.