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Westwood

New social networking site helps students ‘Plan A Drink’

Hey, UCLA students (read: 21 and over), the Cinco De Mayo festivities – or at least the drinking-related activities they include – don’t have to end this weekend.

The new social networking startup “Plan A Drink” is giving out free margaritas at O’Hara’s Monday evening to individuals who sign up for the service through the website.

Here’s how it works: you connect to the site through Facebook, set up a profile and create a “circle,” or you and your five closest friends. Then you “plan a drink” with your circle. You can also see what other outings friends are planning and request to join them.

The idea was developed by New Jersey natives Josh Israel, 25, and Devin Serago, 26, who both gave up six-figure salary jobs last year to travel to Los Angeles and start the project. The project is funded by Start Engine, a Westwood-based company that invests in new startup projects and mentors startup business leaders.

“We were working corporate jobs, wearing suits and dealing with 16-17 work days,” said Israel. “Then this idea came along that we were just so passionate about and we had to act on it.”

Israel and Serago said they both noticed that current dating sites did not match up with the lifestyle of the 21 to 25 year-old age group.

“There just weren’t any sites that catered to our dating life, which basically revolves around going out with buddies and meeting people at the bar,” Israel said.

Plan A Drink is meant to serve the early-twenties crowd. In a way, it’s kind of a group dating site. But Israel said he often hesitates to call it that.

“Labeling it a dating site can sometimes turn people off,” said Israel. Although it can help expand the dating pool, he added, the site is ultimately about making it easier to plan drinks with friends and meet new people.

Third-year economics student Luis Mendoza is currently working as an intern for Plan A Drink. He said he’s developing a more nuanced understanding of how to establish a successful startup.

“I’m definitely learning that I want to follow the ‘create your own business’ path,” said Mendoza. The idea of developing his own company is far more appealing than working in investment banking, he said.

Los Angeles may soon become a new center of technology and startup businesses, added Serago, so Mendoza just might be in the right place.

Have you heard of Plan A Drink? Would you use the service? Tweet us your thoughts @dmojo or comment below.

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Westwood

Demolition of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity house begins

Workers could be seen tearing long strips of lumber off the roof of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house early Monday afternoon as demolition began on the structure.

Victor Mendez, superintendent of the demolition of the property for Blackstone Builders Inc., said the team expected to finish the demolition in two weeks, first by salvaging lumber and then by tearing down the building itself.

Although the project was originally slated to begin several weeks after the fraternity’s suspension from campus for “risk management” violations in August of last year, there had been no steps toward demolition until Monday.

“Getting something built in California is difficult, and getting something built in West Los Angeles in the recession is near impossible,” said Jeremy Tillman, a 1999 UCLA and Phi Kappa Psi alumnus.

Time spent coordinating with local community groups and the area’s complex construction rules, coupled with detailed consideration of design of the new building — which includes a 28-spot ground floor parking lot below a four-story house — delayed the start of the project, Tillman said.

The fraternity is set to return to campus in 2014 with a new house funded by an expected $5 million in alumni donations. As of March 16, $3.6 million had been raised, Tillman said. 

“We want to give back to the fraternity that gave us so much as alumni,” Tillman said.
Reporting by Loic Hostetter, Bruin senior staff.

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