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Carrboro arcade combats loneliness with vintage dating show

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The Baxter — a Chapel Hill-Carrboro nightlife hub that boasts being an inclusive space — will host its annual live remake of the TV game show "The Dating Game," but this time it's getting a fresh look. 

"The Dating Game" was a live show that first ran in black and white in the 1960s. It was revived many times, last airing in 1999. The show consisted of either a bachelor or a bachelorette who questioned three unknown, out-of-sight suitors. The show, a prelude to present-day television extravaganzas such as "The Bachelorette," only featured straight couples.

While The Baxter’s version of the show kept the original format, it's not restrained by the conventional values. 

“We try to be as inclusive as possible," said Nick Stroud, owner and game host. "So we do two straight rounds and two LGBTQ rounds.”

Not only has the venue ditched the gender roles, it's also prioritizing the participants. 

“Honestly, all of Carrboro is pretty inclusive," said Chaz Evans, a former employee who is participating this year. "The Baxter’s just an extension of that, with that community, it’s a safe space, particularly a safe space for the LGBTQ community.”

Despite the attraction of arcade games, business at The Baxter slows down in the winter. 

"What we found for February is that it can be a really slow month if we don’t have some fun events scheduled," Stroud said. "We basically started doing it in tangent with some other Valentine's-related events to promote business in February.”

The Baxter will also host a ball for Valentine's Day and a bingo event, where they give prizes from adult novelty store,Cherry Pie, Stroud said. 

"It's a thing for people who might not necessarily have someone to spend Valentine’s Day with," Stroud said. "We try to gear most of our events toward people who might be a little bit lonelier on those days."

The demographic varies for the events, but it's generally a younger crowd in their 20's and 30's, Stroud said.

"We haven’t seen a lot of student turnout for it but it’s because I think we’ve geared it more toward the town people, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to see a larger student turnout from it," Stroud said. 

Indie music was drowned out by the chatter of laughing customers as Paul Mitchell, the working bartender, discussed The Dating Game and working at The Baxter. 

“I love it," Mitchell said. "It’s just great.”

The Baxter is hosting The Dating Game on Feb. 7.

“I think it’s gonna be really fun," Evans said. "Because it’s such a small town I think I’m gonna be able to guess the contestants, who the other contestants are by the sound of their voice.”

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