Valentine’s Day. Love or hate it, it comes around every year—complete with heart balloons, plush teddy bears and roses.
While for the couples camp it’s a day to be as ostentatiously in love, for the singles camp, it can be a less-than-pleasant day. Thankfully, Feb. 14 falls on a Thursday this year.
In addition, Brix Nouveau is holding a quick and painless way to find a date before the big day: speed dating.
“This is a safe way to meet like-minded people,” said Rosabelle Gorman, who manages the restaurant and owns it with her husband, Marshall. “The Young Professionals [Association] is great for networking, but if you approach someone, you don’t know if that person is single or has a boyfriend or girlfriend or is married. This takes all the guesswork out of it because you know that everyone sitting [at the tables] is single.”
—Rabbi Yaacov Deyo created the concept of speed dating in Los Angeles.
—The trend grew to more than 25 cities around the globe.
—Deyo even wrote a book titled "SpeedDating" to explain his trademark speed dating techniques.
A matter of minutes
The idea for the Find Your Valentine event, which will take place Saturday, Feb. 9 from 5 to 7 p.m., came together as Gorman and her staff planned Brix Nouveau’s Valentine’s Day special.
The romantic wine bar settled on a chocolate tasting paired with specially chosen wines. The regular menu of wines, beers, coffee, cheeses and desserts will also be available.
Open since Aug. 30, 2012, Brix Nouveau has made a name for itself by bringing a very European experience to Chattanooga, allowing patrons to try wines previously inaccessible because of price point or availability and giving cheese lovers and dog owners a new hangout, all among a collection of art provided by Gallery 301.
As the staff geared up for the romantic chocolate menu, Gorman began thinking about her unattached customers. She chose speed dating based on the kind of inspired conversations one can have over a glass of wine and, thanks to one patron’s suggestion, opted to move the event from earlier in the day to a week before.
Find Your Valentine will feature an equal number of men and women rotating through a series of three- to five-minute dates. Gorman is looking to bookend the age range at mid- to late 20s and early 40s with an eye to host a separate event for those in their 50s and 60s in the near future.
The $20 cover charge includes a glass of wine, a beer or coffee.
Gorman will open the evening with a basic explanation of the rules and provide each participant with a sheet all the names of the opposite sex before everyone sits down at a table and the clock starts. One group—either the men or the women—will move after each date, while the other group stays seated.
At the end of each date, individuals will write a simple yes or no next to the name of the person with whom they just spent a few minutes. At the end of the night, Gorman and her staff will use those yeses and nos to match up the singles who shared a mutual level of interest, sharing those pairs’ contact information with each other.
In planning for the event, Gorman discovered more about the history of speed dating—created in the late 1990s by Rabbi Yaacov Deyo of Aish Los Angeles as a way for Jewish singles to meet those with similar religious beliefs—and learned how important it would be to keep the process structured.
“I actually saw an episode of ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,’ and I was surprised how organized it was,” she said. “It’s safe—that’s the point.”
No embarrassment required
Gorman admitted that one of the challenges of putting on a speed dating event is hitting that equal mix of men and women, specifically getting enough men to attend.
Her goal is to have 20 men and 20 women, but she said she will adjust those totals based on the number of reservations she receives.
The other must-do for a successful speed dating event is one that will minimize the potential embarrassment factor for singles who may already be experiencing a certain level of anxiety: following the golden rule of not handing out contact information to other singles directly.
During the one-on-one conversations or the mingling after the games of dating musical chairs while Gorman and her staff tabulate the results, no one is allowed to give out a phone number, an email, a Facebook name or a Twitter handle.
The strict rule is in place to avoid situations in which one single mistakenly gauges the level of another, making someone suddenly feel pressured to email, text, call or tweet.
What Gorman will hand each participant before he or she leaves is a list of the people (with their contact information) in whom that participant indicated interest and who indicated interest in that participant.
Best of all, if another single did not indicate interest in the first participant, she or he will never know.
Translation: If you like Sam and Sam likes you, Gorman will facilitate the exchange of contact information. If you like Sam and Sam doesn’t like you, Sam will never know you like him.
“There’s no need to die of embarrassment because you put yourself out there," Gormon said. "It’s only when it’s mutual do we reveal your interest."
Register for Find Your Valentine by emailing email@example.com. Brix Nouveau is located at 301 Cherokee Blvd. on the North Shore.