- Marissa McClain/Daily
Shooting the breeze one Thursday night in August before going out, a group of University students came up with something to make their favorite Ann Arbor bar even more appealing.
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It was on this night that Kinesiology senior Will O’Leary, LSA senior Scott Robbins, Engineering senior Greg Anderson, Brian LaFrence, University alum and a current visiting research investigator at the College of Engineering, and Eli Orlofsky, University alum and Business School graduate student, thought of the idea that would become Ricksline.com — a website that allows users to view the line outside Rick’s American Café.
And while the group of students said the website is a helpful tool for people to plan their nights out, Chris Hesse, manager of Rick’s American Café located at 611 Church St., said he thinks Ricksline.com will actually be “detrimental” to the bar.
Excluding Anderson, the group of friends lives on Church Street diagonally across the street from Rick’s. Orlofsky said their proximity to the bar is ideal since they can monitor the line from about 60 feet away without having to venture outside. This thinking became the basis for the concept of Ricksline.com.
“There was always that sort of mindset,” Orlofsky said. “Once we moved in there we were going to able to observe the line ourselves. I guess once we were actually there somehow the camera idea popped up, the website idea came up and the name Ricksline.com had a good buzz to it so we rolled with it.”
Ricksline.com was fully functional and complete with advertisements on Sept. 14. The camera linked to the website is located inside the students’ house facing Rick’s and streams 24-hour live footage. Since the website went live, it has received over 14,000 hits according to Google metrics, O’Leary said.
But before launching the site, the five friends didn’t consult Rick’s, according to Hesse. He said he wasn’t aware of the website until one of the bar’s employees pointed it out about two-and-a-half weeks ago.
Hesse said he’s “not a big fan” of the website because he thinks the creators are taking advantage of the popularity of Rick’s in order to make a few bucks.
“I believe that in this situation somebody else is profiting off our hard work and success that we’ve had over the last 31 years, which is fine,” Hesse said. “You know it’s the American way.”
The five University students created the website with the goal of making the going-out experience more convenient, O’Leary said.
“The point was really to create a method for people to have this view of the line and get in faster without the hassle of waiting in the cold,” he said.
But Hesse said he thinks Ricksline.com can be “misleading,” because the camera doesn’t show how many people are actually inside the bar. So if there’s no line outside the bar, people who arrive still may not be able to get in if the bar is at capacity. Hesse said this happened last weekend.
“The line moves until we hit capacity and once we hit capacity, the line basically stops and we can’t let people in until people leave,” Hesse said.
The website has about 1,000 viewers per day, with almost 400 Facebook members “liking” the website, according to Anderson. The website’s peak traffic days are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Robbins said, though they have also found that a large number of people check out the website Monday afternoons as well.
“If you are trying to beat the line, (the website) allows you to get there quicker and make sure you are there before a big line forms,” Orlofsky said. “But also some nights if you are not sure if you should go you can tell if there’s a line, which means there’s a lot of people there and that really excites people when they go to bars.”
Hesse said Rick’s patrons said they like the website. But he said this technology isn’t ideal for the bar since people will be deterred from coming if they see a line forming.