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How to meet someone at a bar: a dating expert's guide

Even if you’ve tried bar dating before, we’ve got the tips that really work.

New year, new you, new love. Sounds great, but sometimes the only thing harder than putting yourself out there is deciding where to go. Allow us to present a radical idea: the bar.

“The after-work bar scene is great because everybody wants to unwind. They want to talk to someone, it’s just so easy,” says Susan Baxter, whose HireAWingWoman.com service pairs men and women with a “professional plus-one” to meet new people. “People can be somewhat vulnerable or more open to conversation.”

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Happy hour is not the only thing that makes a bar great for dating. It gets you in the meeting-people mindset more so than going to an event and hoping that something happens. The bar crowd is also conveniently self-selecting: Singles go out with their co-workers or friends at the end of the day, while people in relationships tend to go home.

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Ironically, bars offer the opportunity for instant connection in a way online dating doesn’t. “Until you meet someone in person, you don’t know what kind of chemistry you have. So you’re killing two birds with one stone if you’re at the bar,” Baxter points out.

If you’re looking for romance, going out with your bestie might not be how you’ll find it. Baxter’s wingwomen work with men and women to make that first connection a little bit smoother by honing clients’ technique, making introductions or just being a supportive plus-one. “It’s intimidating to go up to that hot person at the bar,” Baxter says. “Basically, a wingwoman will provide the confidence."

Convinced? Give bars another try with these expert tips.

Do your research

“Make friends with the bartender,” Baxter advises. “Go maybe once or a couple times a week — the bartender gets to see who the characters are, they may know who’s single, who the alcoholics are. Who knows? They could even set you up.”

Go where the fun is

Look for bars with games like darts or pool tables for a low-stress way to chat up someone rather than staring into each other’s eyes and drinking your cocktails too fast. At more casual bars, “people tend to be a little bit more open and talkative to other people than the people they came with,” Baxter says. She also likes breweries and Mexican restaurants, which by the nature of their fun drinks and upbeat music tend to attract happy people.

Wear something versatile

“You should wear what flatters you,” Baxter says. “There are so many rules out there that say, ‘Wear red, it attracts men.’ I look like crap in red! Wear what makes you feel best.” She describes the ideal look as “chameleon” — like you can have fun in different scenarios. If you go with a dressy top, skew casual on the bottom. Ladies, go easy on the makeup and jewelry, and leave your highest heels at home. Falling into a guy’s arms only works in the movies.

Stand down, squad

You’re way more approachable if you’re either by yourself or with one other person. “I hear it from male clients all the time, that’s probably one of the top reasons they hire a wingwoman is because it’s so hard to approach women when they’re in groups,” she says. More people mean more obstacles, and someone may not approach to avoid interrupting your event.

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Pick the right time

Baxter likes the after-work vibe in Lower Manhattan, where the after-work crowds are big (and highly likely to be successful). But you’ve got to catch them on the right night — Baxter recommends Thursdays, since people will go out but won’t stay out until 2 a.m. (Though, yes, some do, and that’s good to know too.) Sports bars on game day are also a good bet, but your timing has to be right. Commercial breaks are your friend here.

Lower the stakes

If going to a bar alone sounds intimidating, find one where anyone would be happy to talk to you. “Try hotel bars,” says Baxter. “It’s so easy to have conversations with out-of-towners — they want to know where you go, they ask your advice on what to do. It’s such a good place to practice breaking the ice with someone because you can think to yourself, ‘What’s the worst that could happen? I’ll probably never see this person again.’” They get your insider knowledge, you get to talk about something other than your job or commute. Win-win!

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