Belly Up to the Cybar

A frustrated filmmaker wants to help Web surfers cruise local clubs

He also sees Cybars.com as a potential deterrent against crime. "I think one of the most dangerous things a young girl can do is go out at night," he says soberly. To that end the Cybars.com Cyclops could be a tool for parents and police, "so then if a young girl doesn't come home at night you can say "She went home with him.'"

Some fear Cybars might also interfere in crimes of the heart. "Sometimes the wife is sitting at home and it's a "don't mess with the girlfriend' kinda night," laughs Eric Partatmer, a bartender at Lord Nelson's Pub. He says his bar may become a Cybar, too, but he's not sure if that's a good thing. "It could be very incriminating."

Indeed voyeurism, not law enforcement, is central to the success or failure of Cybars.com. Venters smiles as he pulls a chair to a computer at his desk and clicks through the site. It is early afternoon, and the image on the screen is of sunlight streaming into a dark, deserted bar. "They look really bad in the day," Venters says apologetically, adding that special camera lenses and the cover of darkness transform the nightspots: "Stereo looks unbelievable at night," he enthuses. "Stereo looks like Studio 54."

Though Cybars.com launched about three weeks ago, locals outside the hospitality business seem thus far unaware of the cameras that hang in the main rooms of several Fort Lauderdale bars and clubs. Amid the throng of revelers on a weekend night, the low-key signs at the entrance are nearly impossible to see. One camera posted at hip height on a wood-paneled wall near the entrance to Dicey Riley's is usually blocked by the standing-room-only crowd.

It's a scene with which Venters seems familiar. He's enthusiastic about Fort Lauderdale's nightlife and its anticipated synergy with Cybars, which will soon be in a total of ten area clubs. All of this is a disturbing trend to John Fore, who is 28 years old and lives within walking distance of the downtown scene. Fore hopes VIP rooms, at least, remain camera-free: "It's like your retreat to get away while you're still [at the night club]. You just paid $200 for a bottle of something...."

Venters assures the cameras won't roll on the high rollers. The rest of us should just say "cheese."

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