Bars and nightclubs have always sprouted up near high-density workplaces--factories, shipyards, even the offices of Capitol Hill. So it's been kind of mysterious that the tech corridor of Northern Virginia has drawn mainly chain restaurants and office-supply stores.
We pointed out in The Download three months ago that if the region's going to attract young tech workers, it needs a cool place to hang out.
So reader Steve Zarpas, who ran the legendary Crow Bar downtown, decided to do something. He started looking around for the perfect place for a new nightspot. Now Zarpas and partner Edward Andrews, who had run the nightclub The Bank, plan to open a new place in Herndon at the end of July. "I saw the article, turned around and found a cool space," says Zarpas.
The spot, with a working name of Hop-N-Java, will be both a coffeehouse and a bar.
Target audience: The region's techies, especially those at America Online Inc., MCI WorldCom and PSINet.
In looking for space, Zarpas says, a main criterion was being within five miles of AOL, which has almost 3,000 local employees.
But that doesn't mean the place will be a cybercafe, where people stare into screens and ignore whoever's next to them. "We think of ourselves as the antidote to the Internet," said Zarpas. "We'd like to foster a socially interactive environment."
Still, techies are techies. There won't be any computers, but there will be data ports for people to check their e-mail or do a little day trading. "People can do one last trade, then have a beer and relax," says Zarpas.
Zarpas spent the last few months driving up and down the Dulles Toll Road, searching Sterling, Reston and Herndon for the right spot, and the experience was eye-opening.
Although he's local--Zarpas grew up in McLean and went to George Washington University--he never saw the technology explosion until now.
"This isn't the Herndon of my youth," he says. "The more I drove around, the more I couldn't believe what was out there."
Zarpas checked in with the tech crowd, e-mailing back and forth with top-level people and dropping into a New Media Society of Washington meeting. He said he talked with dozens of local technology employees, too, to see what kind of place they'd like.
He pictures the place having an eclectic mix of people--gay, straight, black, white, khaki-clad and tattooed. The one thing in common: the digital livelihood.
It's not just big companies such as PSINet, which bought the name rights to the Baltimore Ravens' stadium, that are getting in on the sports marketing game.
TV onthe Web of Reston, which transmits video broadcasts over the Web, paid professional golfer Hollis Stacy to play with the company's logo on her shirt and her bag at the U.S. Women's Open, played earlier this month in Mississippi.
And little Proteus of Washington, a 16-person Internet development and consulting company, sponsored a women's professional cycling team for the First Union Liberty Classic in Philadelphia on June 6.
"Team Proteus" was on just about everything--T-shirts, jerseys, the team car, mechanics' clothing.
While he wouldn't say exactly how much the company paid, company President Patrick McQuown said it costs "a lot of money" to pay for the riders' travel, hotel accommodations, equipment and other expenses. But it's worth it, he says, for the exposure to large crowds both in person and on ABC-TV.
Proteus has also been a co-sponsor of bike racing events, including the U.S. Postal Service Clarendon Cup on May 15.
It used to be that a person leaving a company would turn in the ID card, promise to stay in touch with co-workers and then, inevitably, drop out of sight. But techies do not always lose touch so easily. They go on the Web and set up unofficial alumni pages for the company.
It's a cyber-reunion.
Check out www.ex-mozilla.com, the exhaustive former-Netscaper site that's growing every day as more and more people leave Netscape Communications after its merger with America Online.
Or try www.demagnetized.org, a love-hate site for former workers at Magnet Interactive Communications, a Web design firm in Georgetown.
The company has had some tough waves of layoffs, and the site has become a place to vent. "There's a lot of bitterness," says Seth Grimes, who was director of server technologies at Magnet in 1996 and 1997 and now runs Alta Plana, a Web design firm in Takoma Park. "That's because people really loved working here."
"Whenever people leave in bunches, it creates solidarity."
Send tips and tales of the digital capital's local people, deals and events to Shannon Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAPTION: Steve Zarpas, left, and Edward Andrews agreed that Virginia tech workers needed a cool hangout--then set out to do something about it.