Mask down, romance up: Post-pandemic dating comes to a coffee shop or gym near you
Single and looking to mingle? You've got fresh options
What's the one thing you've been craving but perhaps abstaining from during a more than two-year global pandemic?
Some Calgary businesses along 17th Avenue S.W. hope to lure you away from the dating apps and get you fixed up in ways you may not have considered.
"Late January, we sold out for all of February. That's Friday, Saturday and Sunday, every single weekend," Hooman Hodaie told CBC News in an interview.
Hodaie is a co-owner of Element Café and he's talking about the various date nights they have recently put on.
"People were a little nervous at first but once they actually started coming out to the events, I think ultimately they ended up having a great time, meeting other Calgarians, and starting this new chapter together as a city."
Element has experimented with speed dating and board game themed singles events.
"Nothing replaces seeing someone in person. Nothing replaces communication," Hodaie said.
"While the apps are almost necessary, especially during this COVID situation, at the end of the day I don't want to see my generation totally switching to apps. Soon there will probably be software that is smarter than the apps. That creeps me out a little bit. 'Hey, how about we figure it out together over dinner or something?'"
Wine and workouts
About six blocks west on 17th Avenue is a fitness centre called MOVE.
Owner Michael Minorczyk says combining two generally unrelated activities can have win-win results.
"We've had some singles spin-and-sip nights. People come in and do a spin class, we bring in some wine from friends in the neighbourhood, do a little wine tasting after, a bit of a social event," Minorczyk said.
"We give people a chance to ease themselves back into being out of the house and being in groups. It's been working really good so far."
As to making a first impression after a sweat-inducing workout? Minorczyk points out everyone is in the same boat.
"A little hesitation up front but after you get the adrenaline going people ease up a little bit," he said.
"It is continuously getting busier and busier, which is a really good sign. I think people need a little time to ease back into it, but that's what these events are for. After the first class, they usually are really excited to come back."
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Dating apps, however, are still hoping to cash in on post-pandemic swipes to the right.
A recent industry report from Bank of Montreal suggests popular dating apps like Bumble and Match.com could do well in the stock market, better than some internet companies.
The CEO at Match.com, which also owns Tinder and OkCupid, says he's hoping for the best.
"We remain very optimistic that people are going to want to go out and date and socialize in big numbers once they feel the risk is down and they're ready to do that," Gary Swidler said in a recent call with analysts.
"And we clearly have not gotten to that yet. We're hoping it happens kind of in the summer months, spring and summer months, but remains to be seen."
Speed dating gets a reboot
Meanwhile, Hodaie says the current moment is an opportunity to give a reboot to older techniques like speed dating.
"You have to modernize it; you have to evolve the system," he said.
"At the end of the day, it wasn't about the speed dating. It wasn't about the coffee they had when they were here or the glass of wine. It became about 'I got out of the house' and it became this 'self' thing. I got out of the house. I met some friends. Maybe I met a guy or a gal I like, and it was a good date."
And venturing into uncharted territory can pay off.
"You've got to put yourself out there sometimes and take a risk. The shore is right there. You can swim back at any time. So come on out and have a good time. You really never know."
With files from CBC's Helen Pike