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Bitbar brings Bitcoin into real-world bars

Created by online social club Grouper, Bitbar lets consumers pay for a drink at a bar using Bitcoin. Consumers can place an order under a secret alias, pay with Bitcoin and receive a drink under their secret name.

“We’re building the bar of the future, and want to play around with all the aspects of currencies in the future,” said Tom Brown, co-founder of Grouper and the developer behind Bitbar.

Bitbar has already partnered with more than 300 bars in 23 cities in the United States, including Boston, New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Consumers simply go to to receive a secret alias. Then they can find the bar they want to visit via an integrated Google map.

Once they select the bar and order their drink of choice consumers can pay with a Coinbase account or another Bitcoin account. Bitbar will ping consumers when their drink is ready.

The bartender will then call out a user’s alias name when the drink is ready.

Bitcoins have recently risen in popularity as their shady beginnings turn into feasible commercial opportunity.

While Bitcoin is still a new and relatively untested payment network, it does have the potential to provide certain benefits in mobile such as an easier method of transaction for consumers and lower transaction costs for retailers (see story).

At the time of press, one Bitcoin was worth $680.80. A drink through BitBar costs a flat rate of 0.01 BTC, which is around $7.

The price of Bitcoin fluctuates extremely rapidly, however, so consumers will have to decide if a Bitbar purchase is worth the value of a drink. Alternatively, Bitbar may adapt its prices to the fluctuations of Bitcoin.

At the time this article was written, Bitbar’s Web site was not taking any orders, with copy on the homepage that read, “Uhoh, we’re over capacity- check back in tomorrow.” Bitbar may take some time to figure out all of the kinks, but for now it has the chance at riding along the buzz of Bitcoin to create an exciting experiment.

Mobile payments
Bitbar is certainly innovative for enabling in-store payments via Bitcoin, but a number of merchants have been rolling out other types of mobile payment technology in-store.

For instance, fifteen merchants in the Dallas area have signed on to try out a new mobile POS system that incorporates image recognition to simplify the checkout process for both merchants and consumers (see story).

There is also an endless amount of various apps such as Dash, TabbedOut and MyCheck that let consumers checkout on their own schedule (see story).

All of these mobile checkout systems connect to a consumer’s credit or debit card, letting them pay with real money via mobile.

With all the hype around Bitcoin, bitbar may be able to tap into the buzz to drive its payments system over other mobile payment services. However, Bitcoin is still too new to rely on for stability and long-term functionality.

“Bars get additional business from consumers interested in Bitcoin,” Mr. Brown said. “Consumers can remotely purchase drinks for themselves and their friends in seconds using simple QR codes.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York