On a recent Tuesday night, Sandi Pointe Coastal Bistro served dinner and drinks as if it was any other evening - live music filled the corner of the Somers Point restaurant, as conversation filled the air.
But, the verbal exchanges did not involve commentary on the latest sport's play airing on the bar's television. It did not derive from a text message or a Facebook status.
It was a night full of good old-fashioned dinner and dialogue, politely encouraged by the Shore Road eatery's owners, Dan and Sandi Anderson.
The idea for the first ever No-Tech Tuesday was initially brought up by a guest about a year ago, Dan Anderson said. He felt inspired and decided to eliminate all technology at his restaurant, for two Tuesdays in February.
"I'm not going to be a hypocrite about it. I need my cell phone," he admitted. "But when it comes to the food end of it and the restaurant part of it, I'm a traditionalist."
That night, the co-owner asked his patrons to refrain from pulling out their cell-phones, he turned off the televisions, and hoped diners would simply enjoy the food and each other's company.
"When you go out to dinner with someone - you're with that someone," he said. "Its all about food and wine and camaraderie. Enjoy your friends while you can," he continued, adding that often he walks by a table of customers, eyes glued to their phones.
"There's no interaction. There's no laughing at the table. There's no talking about the food. It's just kind of a dull, boring dinnertime," he said of the tech addicts.
Diners Simone and Richard Zoladz of Linwood visited Sandi Pointe that night specifically to avoid that situation.
"We are annoyed by people who use (cell phones) a lot," Simone Zoladz said.
"We just can't fathom that people can't sit and converse with each other, that they have to have a phone."
Although the couple acknowledged the purpose of the device, they said they use theirs sparingly - mostly in the case of an emergency.
"I left my phone at home tonight to have a nice peaceful dinner," Simone said, as she started on her first course at the bar.
Although it was easy to ignore the temptation to check a text message for some, others found the habit hard to ignore. Bartenders collected small change for "blatant disrespectful use" or simple "misdemeanors."
Bartender, Kelli Seel said on a typical night, she frequently waits to speak with customers, many busy on a phone call or in the middle of typing a text message.
"You just get used to it," she said. "You have to wait. … But, tonight is fun."
Drink specials included $3 Fuzzy Navels, Sloe Gin Fizzes and Tequila Sunrises.
"I asked some of the bartenders what they haven't served in two decades," Anderson said of the vintage drink options.
Collected "fines" of more than $75 - between the two nights - would be given to the Jordan Road School garden and their Kids Are Cookin' event, he said.
Susan and Ron Gaskill were close to donating a dollar to the fine cup, claiming they use their cells more often than necessary. Ironically, Susan came to the restaurant following a Droid application class, held at the local Verizon store, where she learned of the endless capabilities of her phone, she said.
But, the Northfield residents were intrigued by the No-Tech Tuesday idea, and came in purposely knowing they would have to refrain from using their devices.
As the television screens remained black, Susan Gaskill said, "Usually when we see the TV blasting at a restaurant, we make a U-Turn at the door."
Anderson said the television sets would be turned back on and the cell phones would emerge again the next night. However, the owner plans to recycle the same event in the future.
"I'll never bring (old-fashioned) dining back," he said. I can't stop the tide. I can put a couple sandbags in front of my front door, that's about it. … This was just, let's make a statement."
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