Dwindling economy, bustling nightlife


As businesses close down and people become more cautious of their spending, Kelly Daly looks at how the Dublin social scene is one of few industries thriving

Drinking is commonly portrayed as an essential part of college life. Few television shows or movies featuring college protagonists escape the cliché of drinking and partying every night. You might think that the current generation of college students should be encountering a problem with fulfilling this stereotype, and that problem is the economic recession. But is it affecting student nightlife as much as you might think?

Every week, new themed nightclub events seems to pop up across Dublin, with the event promoted by the establishment as a unique night out where they offer the ultimate party experience. Many students will be able to list of host of nightclub events; probably enough for each day of the week. Yet, how are they finding the money to support this drinking and partying culture?

Most college students will claim to be too broke to buy basic goods, such as their college textbooks or food to live off for the week, and yet always manage to afford at least one night out per week. Students are most definitely not getting richer. Rather, the control over student nights out is in the hands of a few big players, and this allows them to advertise and market the cheapest nights out.

Companies like the Signature Group, who represent major Dublin nightclubs like Palace, Wrights and Copper Face Jacks, can afford to hire young college students on commission based wages to work as ‘promotional representatives’. These are the people who bombard your Facebook newsfeeds with nightclub invitations and drinks offers.

They also have the authority to offer young people deals on group entry into nightclubs, which can include anything from free entry for a limited number, to a free Bucket (A large bowl filled with vodka and energy drinks designed to be shared among a small group with straws).

“The greater the amount of people you get, the better deals you’ll get,” is how an anonymous Signature Group representative simplified the idea behind nightclub promotion. This premise encourages people to try and get a larger group of people together, in the hopes of getting bigger and better deals.

For a bustling city centre nightclub, a few free bottles of cheap champagne is a small price to pay for the money a large group of drunk college students will spend on an average night out. Getting large numbers to attend these nights out means the representatives receive a small commission, and occasional perks, depending on the numbers they manage to get.

In fact, nightclubs seem to be the only organisations still thriving. Step onto the streets of Dublin at 4am on a Friday morning, and it could pass for a bustling Saturday afternoon. The streets are packed, the shops that are still open have queues out the door, and taxi ranks are never busier.

The Signature representative notes, “A lot of people still go out, they might not go out as much, but they still go out. They might be more budgeted for what they do, or try and get a bigger taxi but people still go out”.”

Clubs are capitalising on a culture of drinking and partying, and don’t limit their deals and special offers to just group bookings. Enter any nightclub and you will quickly locate a specials board, advertising how many Jaeger bombs you can purchase for a €10 note that night.

These larger deals, often offering two, three, or four drinks for a set price, and encourage larger groups to make purchases together in an effort to keep the costs down. The culture of buying rounds is also making a strong comeback, with groups of friends taking turns purchasing the drinks deals and sharing them out.

Along with these drinks deals, many nightclubs run cheaplists in conjunction with Facebook, where if you post a comment on the company’s Facebook page you can receive free or discounted entry. These posts act as free advertisement for nightclubs, as friends can see who is attending what club on any particular night.

Despite the discounted entry and drinks promotions, college students still find economical ways to increase intoxication levels on a night out. An employee for a city centre nightclub commented that they feel “pre-drinking has taken over.”

Many get as drunk as possible, while trying to remain sober enough to still be allowed into the nightclub. The employee explains, “I’ve had to take drink out of girls’ handbags while doing bag checks, but you can tell just by looking at them that they’ve been drinking before hand.”

It makes more sense to pre-drink in the eyes of college students. You can buy a shoulder (350ml) of a cheap vodka for about €10 in any off licence, whereas €10 in an average nightclub might get you two or three shots, which measure 35.5ml each.

When it comes to nightlife in Ireland, the only places to have suffered really are the smaller nightclubs that can’t afford to have the deals and promotional team the likes of larger nightclubs have.

An employee from an Enniscorthy nightclub told of how their place of employment shut down as a result of the recession. “Some nights it was so empty we had to give the few who paid in their money back as there was just no one there.”

A lot of the people who would usually populate nightclubs like this, students and young professionals, have moved to the city centre for either for work or college. A nightclub outside the city area just doesn’t have the same pull for people.

Students just want to have fun, and large nightclub groups have turned this into their cash crop. They can afford to have a promotional team who they pay a tiny commission to. The can also afford to throw in the occasional free drink or free entry to lure students in in their masses

Are the nightclubs the winners in this situation? If anything, its students who seem to be winning. They have nightclubs vying to offer the best deals so they’ll return again and again. The nightlife industry is one that will not slow down or stop because of a recession. Instead it allows the recession to help it evolve rapidly moving from your small local nightclub to massive chains of luxury party venues.