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'Speed dating' offers chance for singles to mingle

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By April Wright, Reporter

For most singles, just hearing the words "Valentines Day" — which is quickly approaching — is dreadful.

However, Parrott Bay Restaurant & Nightclub in Galax may prevent some singles from being dateless Valentine victims when it hosts its first “speed dating” event on Friday.

Speed dating, a formalized matchmaking process, is growing in popularity, especially in metropolitan areas. And it seems to be the quick, hip way to meet other singles without rejection.

Most recognizably, it has been seen in movies such as "Hitch," "40 Year Old Virgin" and the television series "Sex and the City."

This is the first speed dating session in the Twin Counties.

"I want to bring in original ideas," said club co-owner Ron Passmore. "I saw speed dating on television, and I know it's successful in larger markets, so I thought I'd give it a shot here."

Passmore co-owns the club with Dan Milby Sr., and Jon and Barbara Jordan — all of whom also own The Galax Smokehouse in downtown. Tim Bryson manages the club, Earl Cherry Jr. manages the kitchen and Denise Brown is the lead bartender.

Speed dating usually works with large groups of people. Passmore said he plans to have 15 men and 15 women for this event.

This is how speed dating works:

Each person will get a nametag. On the nametag of females, each will get a different letter of the alphabet. Men will each get a different number.

Men will sit on one side of the table and women on the other. When the host indicates when to begin dating — usually by ringing a bell — participants will have four minutes to chat with the person across from them.

When time is up, each person will have five minutes to score their date on a scorecard. They’ll write "yes" if they like their date, or "no" if not, beside that person’s letter or number.

After five minutes, men will go to the next date, while women remain seated.

"It's a great way to meet a lot of people in one night," said Passmore. "And on this night, no one is going to tell you 'no' [to your face]. This takes away rejection."

After all the men and women have had their four-minute dates, speed-dating hosts will take a look at the scorecards. And if there is a match, hosts will let participants know and they can meet to schedule a date.

"If anybody falls in love, they have to have their wedding and reception here," Passmore laughed.

Passmore said if the speed-dating event gets a great response, he would schedule multiple speed dating nights. Speed dating will begin at 7 p.m. Friday and admission is $15, which includes unlimited fountain drinks.

Parrott Bay opened its doors in December 2006, in a spot off North Main Street formerly known as Grandfather’s and The Branding Iron. The owners completely stripped and restored the two-story, 8,000-square-foot facility, putting in all new carpet and replacing and painting the walls. The newly renovated and upscale version of the club cost the owners a whopping six figures.

"It has always been known as a bar, but now it's a beautiful building," said Passmore.

Visitors will notice a beach theme throughout Parrott Bay. On the upper deck, beach murals adorn the walls, and there is a large dining area for the restaurant and a bar. Diners can overlook dancers on the bottom floor or entertainers on stage.

On the lower level are the main bar, a seating area and pool tables. Surrounding the 360-square-foot dance floor and a stage are tall, lighted palm trees to give the club a beachy feel. Rails are painted in bright, neon orange and green paint, which set off a glow under the black lights.

"It used to be very dark [at Branding Iron]," said club-goer Robert Lam. "But bright colors and black lights really lighten up the place. It's upbeat and fun. How they've cleaned it up is very patron friendly."

"The club is pretty spacious and the security guard at the door had a lot of personality," said Lam's wife, Christina.

While it is a bar and dance club, Passmore said people often forget that Parrott Bay comes complete with a full restaurant.

"Parrott Bay just doesn't pop into anyone's head when they think of restaurants and places to dine in the area," Passmore said.

After trying out a tropical menu when it first opened, Parrott Bay has changed its offerings to focus on more American fare — appetizers, salads, pastas, seafood, subs and cheesesteaks. The dessert menu includes ice cream, brownies, pies and pound cake.

The specialty now is 25 hot wings, with 12 flavor varieties — mild, hot, sweet, Cajun, teriyaki, plain, salt and vinegar, garlic, lemon pepper, spicy pineapple, Old Bay and mountain.

"Nobody does wings like we do wings," said Passmore.

"The salt and vinegar wings are definitely good and addictive. And they have a very good drink menu," said Christina Lam, who referred to a menu filled with fruity cocktails.

With a seating capacity of more than 300 and the dance floor, the club is perfect for receptions, anniversary and birthday parties. Although loaded with neon lighting, it quickly transforms from club to classy, with linens and decorations.

People can bring in their own caterer or their own food if they book the club for an event, or Parrott Bay can cater, provide a bartender and DJ. Parrott Bay can hire a professional cake decorator.

Passmore said he hopes people will even start having wedding ceremonies at the club.

Providing entertainment and a place for local teens to go, the club hosts Teen Night for ages 13 to 19 every Wednesday from 7-11 p.m. For a $10 cover charge, teens get unlimited fountain drinks and teens can buy snacks and non-alcoholic beverages.

On Wednesday nights, Parrott Bay is a non-alcoholic, tobacco-free environment. Passmore said if he or the security team finds any teen consuming alcohol at Teen Night, they will be banned from the club until the age of 21.

And DJ Steve Pullum plays only censored, radio-edit versions of pop and hip-hop hits on Teen Night.

Teens are not allowed to leave without a parent, unless they are 16 years or older and have a drivers license, and people older than 19 are not allowed in, unless they are a parent of a teen in the club.

"We encourage parents to come and take a look around. We're very focused on safety, especially on [Teen Night]," said Passmore. " My goal is to have a venue that's respectable and safe."

Passmore said the club has a professional security team. Most of the security guards have had some sort of law-enforcement training.

Although the club hasn't had any problems with violence in the past, the Parrott Bay security guard waves his metal detector wand around each person who walks through the door. Passmore said, "this is an attempt to prevent any problems occurring."

Thursdays and Saturdays are reserved for Pullum to spin modern hip-hop hits. Saturdays are the most popular night for locals to hit the dance floor at Parrott Bay, with about 400 people in attendance.

Parrott Bay hosts Comedy Club nights the second Friday of every month, with professional comedians and host comic Brenda Smith. Most of these comedians travel far to perform at Parrott Bay and many have been seen on Comedy Central or are award-winning performers.

Parrott Bay also hosts live bands. On Feb. 15, the club will feature band Five 2 One, and on March 1, DRIVN will return to perform. Both are popular, local Southern and classic rock bands.

Every second Saturday of the month, men can participate in a dance competition, and every fourth Saturday of the month is reserved for female dance-offs. Those who win get a cash award of $50 and free cover charge for the rest of that month.

Even though most won't be able to make it down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, the club is bringing the party to Galax. On Feb. 1, the club will hold its first Mardi Gras party of the year, featuring a Cajun menu and party favors, with a $5 cover charge for adults and $10 for people under 21.

People can come out and celebrate the Super Bowl with Parrott Bay on Feb. 3, when the big game will be on the club's large, flat-screen television. The $10 charge covers a wing, chip and dip buffet.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Feb. 13 Teen Night will feature a photographer to take photos of couples and offer package deals. On Feb. 14, the club will feature dinner specials and a photographer.

Although the club draws a diverse audience, most of the clientele are college-age. For adults who want to drink, dance or see live entertainment, the club is open Thursday through Saturday.

Located on the lower level of the former Super 8 Motel — Rodeway Inn — Passmore said it's rare to find a place where people can get the total package. At Parrott Bay, people can have a meal, some cocktails, dance, enjoy entertainment and book a motel room for the night.

"This is a great place for the community," said Bryson. "It's a very safe place to come out and relax and have a good time or a good meal."

For Teen Night or live entertainment nights with a band or comedian, cover charge is $10.

From Thursday through Saturday, the club is open from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m., with the restaurant opening at 4 p.m., and the lounge opening at 8 p.m.

Happy hour specials are featured Thursday though Saturday.

For other nights with the DJ, the cost is $5.

On Thursdays, women get in free, and men get in free only if they have their admission armband from the previous Saturday.

• To register for speed dating, reserve a party or for more information about Parrott Bay and its events, check out the Web sites parrottbayclub.com or myspace.com/clubparrottbay, or call 236-0023.

To check out the club's comedy acts, visit myspace.com/parrottbaycomedy.