Buybacks used to be a far more regular thing: If you bought a reasonable number of drinks and were a reasonably regular and/or agreeable customer, at some point in the evening your bartender would say, "This round's on me." As this Observer story from the sputtering breaths of the last century shows, the arrangement's been fading for some time, thanks to corporatization, the disappearance of neighborhood spots, the emphasis on volume in some bars, and, in others, the emphasis on cocktails whose prices don't exactly fit the buyback model. But if a just-released app called Swing has its way, the buyback could be making a comeback.
Launching with 28 fine New York City drinking establishments, Swing uses beacon technology to automatically link up with downloaders' phones the moment they walk into a participating bar, no check-in necessary. The bars themselves control what goes out over their hyper-localized Bluetooth connections, allowing each individual bar to send Swing-enabled customers real-time messages while they're on the premises.