More photos of the tables in the Remote Lounge. The are retro-futuristic, like a scene from the Jetsons. On each table is a small CRT screen, many light up buttons, a joystick, and a telephone. On the top of the monitor is a small camera that is controlled by servos. The walls are padded and the bar stool cushions are hexagon shaped.

Way ahead of its time: The Remote Lounge NYC

The Remote Lounge was a high tech bar in NYC’s Bowery District from 10/2001 to 11/2007. The bar’s gimmick was that it was packed full of monitors and closed circuit television cameras. Each CCTV camera was mounted on a servo and could be controlled by anyone in the bar via any of the terminals throughout the bar. Each terminal had a joystick (for controlling a camera), a camera button (which would capture an image and upload it to the, a next button (for switching to another camera), a chat button, and a land line phone. So you could cycle through the bar until you found someone sitting near a camera, then you could request to chat with them via the phone. Sometimes as you were watching a scene your camera would start to move and you’d realize someone else was watching and controlling the same camera that you were.

For me, the 7 stages of the Remote Lounge went something like this:
1. Awe.
2. Self conscious.
3. Exhibitionism.
4. Fumbling around with the tech.
5. Voyeurism.
6. Self conscious again as you realize people can watch you being voyeuristic.
7. And finally, exibitionally voyeuristic. “Hey look, I’m looking at people too.”

Some still photos captured from the surveillance cameras inside the Remote Lounge. In each image, you can see people smiling or posing for the camera. The footage is grainy and black and white.  

The Remote Lounge photos via
photos via

12 years later, it’s funny to think how this novelty bar in NYC would so closely mirror our modern experience. Just replace the always connected security cameras with smart phones and opt-in social media. Sometimes I’m shocked at how my experiences at the Remote Lounge would be recreated time and time again by following a hashtag on twitter, to a photo on instagram, to a small conversation online, and finally with meeting someone face to face… all over the course of ten or twenty minutes on my iPhone at a local bar.

The cameras at the bar could be used to capture photos and upload them to a special section on, like these photos I found from an old chiptune night that was hosted there.

Here is a Wayback Machine link to
You can also find a list of press that covered this bar here
And more information about the designers here






10 responses to “Way ahead of its time: The Remote Lounge NYC

  1. […] Way ahead of it’s time: The Remote Lounge NYC […]

  2. Scott E. Greenwald Avatar
    Scott E. Greenwald

    I remember that place. Ohhhh… I was so disappointed when it closed. Too much fun. My friends and I did some ridiculous things in front of those cameras. We saw quite a few impressive things, too.

  3. […] Manhattan Bridge, Fun, where cameras let you watch the women’s room from the men’s room? Or Remote Lounge, where you could chat with fellow bar-goers via surveillance cams? Void? Baktun? All of the names […]

  4. […] surveillance stations at every table to indulge your inner voyeur or exhibitionist (find out more here), The Bowery Electric moved in and opened its doors in late March of 2008 before construction of […]

  5. […] Manhattan Bridge, Fun, where cameras let you watch the women’s room from the men’s room? Or Remote Lounge, where you could chat with fellow bar-goers via surveillance cams? Void? Baktun? All of those […]

  6. Native Avatar

    Bowery District? It’s bad enough they tried to rename Alphabet City, but Bowery District?

  7. John Avatar


  8. Michael Geary Avatar
    Michael Geary

    There is a great discussion on Hacker News with the programmer who developed the software that tied together all of the hardware devices in The Remote Lounge:

  9. doc Avatar

    I saw that, but thanks so much for posting it here too. It’s a great conversation and I’m really learning a lot.

  10. doc Avatar

    Ten years ago, I wrote about my wonderful experience at The Remote Lounge in NYC. Somehow that post ended up on Hacker News this week and it’s been a wild ride. Even though it’s been around for a while, HN can still send server crushing traffic these days. I had about 12,000 unique visits on the first day the post was live, which is pretty crazy. I don’t even think it was the top post of the day.

    Secondly, I found a lot of great info in the comments of the post, including this video of Leo Fernekes describing the original hardware he built for The Remote Lounge back in 2001.

    But the best part of having my post linked on Hacker News was having nhod, the sole developer of the software at The Remote Lounge, chime in and do an AMA in the comments. There are some great explanations of how they converted the video to digital and some of the behind the scenes details of how the “Cocktail Consoles” work.

    I always felt my experience at The Remote Lounge helped give me an early look at the way we now live our lives online, so I asked nhod about how they felt their experience prepared them for web 2.0 and the future of the social media. Here is their response:

    This is a good question. Remote (and its ancestor We Live in Public) was way ahead of its time in regards to how public people were going to be about sharing their lives online. In many ways Remote was merely an instance of much larger trends in society that began decades (centuries?) before. Sharing your life with people you have never met; the culture (and cult) of celebrity; the long tail; constructing a persona for the public vs your private life; taking pictures of people without permission or knowledge; meeting people in the same room as you not via talking directly to them but through a technological disintermediation; technology as art… Remote had all of these things and more, all incorporated using the available technology at the time. (The medium is the message!)Those same trends continued on as technology improved: as hundreds of cameras in a single venue became billions of cameras all around us and in every pocket; as capturing a grainy black and white photo on a single debaucherous night and sharing it via email became sharing high resolution 4k sex videos on Grindr and Tinder; as dressing up infrequently for a single night so as to take advantage of the video and photo technology in an unusual venue became constant “dressing up” via creating an entire persona you constantly curate on various social media platforms; as small-time surveillance you willingly went into for fun became ubiquitous surveillance that made trillions of dollars for new hegemonies and entrenched the other powers that be even further; as the “innocent” early internet culture we started with that was all about freedom and revolution and individual power turned ugly and scary following 9/11 and became walled gardens and centralized control. (As another commenter pointed out, Remote opened shortly after 9/11 — we were supposed to open around 9/13, but then the world ended, and we had to push it back a bit.)

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