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Ray’s is notoriously buzzy and hard to get into—its SXSW pop-up was no different

The partnership between the NYC celebrity hotspot and Bumble seemed like a perfect match.


Daysia Tolentino

Internet Culture

Posted on Mar 13, 2022   Updated on Mar 30, 2022, 9:32 am CDT

Set in a quiet suburban neighborhood, one might mistake the Ray’s NYC x Bumble pop-up for a random house party if they didn’t know better. The line in front of the house was crowded Saturday night, but many of those unlucky patrons were unable to get in. Although the email for the event declared it “open to the public”—I overheard one of the door people admitting the flyer was “confusing”—folks quickly learned the party was closed to a select list of people. The publicist for the event did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.

The event had live music, burgers, tattoos, and a pool table. There was also line dancing and caricature drawings being minted as NFTs, presented by crypto-powered entertainment startup mad realities

The partnership between Ray’s, a New York City celebrity hotspot oft-featured in Deuxmoi blind items, and Bumble seemed like a perfect match (no pun intended). The bar evokes the thought of eligible bachelors and hot young people, making it fitting for a dating app activation. The actual Ray’s is buzzy and hard to get into—and the Austin pop-up appeared no different.

I had a completely different plan for this piece—namely, I was going to make it my mission to get a tattoo at the pop-up and blog about it. After looking at the Ray’s Instagram account, which announced that the event had closed for a select list, I found that I probably wasn’t going to make the tattooing window. I might not even make it in at all. (I made it in time to watch the artist ink the last tat of the night.)

Of course, exclusivity brings more attention, more desire to see what’s behind the rickety door. How was I going to get into this thing? I tried calling and texting the PR person who sent me the email. Per the suggestion of the actual Ray’s Instagram account, I tried finding someone on Bumble who had an in. When I finally got there, I was turned away at the door, but luckily my editor was already inside and convinced them to let me in. To their credit, the workers did a great job running the door.

Inside, the interior was reminiscent of the NYC spot, “with a little southern twist” as the press release said. There were four rooms downstairs and an attic, where the tattoos and caricatures were being done. The walls were plastered with posters for the event and a photographer was ushering influencer-types all around the house to take pics for Instagram. At one point, the photographer suddenly interrupted our pool game to steal one of the balls for an impromptu photoshoot with a couple of girls. My colleagues and I—and the patrons waiting to play next—awkwardly stood there while the women posed with a Bumble-yellow 1 ball, patiently waiting until they were done. Suddenly, I felt highly conscious of my aesthetic—or lack thereof. 

The activation appeared to be the perfect place for big influencers to experience the exclusive Ray’s experience in an even more exclusive pop-up. After observing the party for a bit, I finally left. Walking out the door, my colleague was shocked to hear R. Kelly’s “Ignition” playing in the dance area. Interesting choice for a Bumble event, indeed.

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*First Published: Mar 13, 2022, 5:08 pm CDT