Daylife Evolves

That Margarita is actually on spring break right now. Image: el-rudakova / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Daylife, the obvious counterpart to nightlife, is treated as a new concept. This is interesting on its face because bars in many counties across the United States operate before noon, yet they’ve not been designated “daylife venues” until recently. Bars, restaurants and lounges with patio, deck, sidewalk and rooftop spaces have been a thing for quite some time. So why is daylife just now being recognized as a distinct industry category?

In a word, change. The industry has changed. How we learn, discover new food and beverage products, and share that information with others has undoubtedly changed. The ease and speed with which we uncover fads and nurture them into trends has clearly changed. Society, generations and guests themselves have changed. Guest demands and expectations constantly change.

This business of bars, of food and beverage, of service, has evolved. What some refer to as the renaissance of cocktail culture more closely resembles an evolution of sorts, a natural progression. Renaissance is defined as rebirth, whereas evolution is defined as development. More pointedly, evolution is the progression from simple to complex. Consider how expectations have changed regarding morning and afternoon dayparts and “complicated” becomes an apt descriptor. Welcome, then, to the evolution of cocktail culture; daylife has been leading the charge for quite some time.

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Planting the Seed

Contrary to public perception, daylife didn’t appear just two or three years ago. The terms “daylife,” “dayclub” and “beach club” and their categories may seem new, but one can argue easily that they were conceived in the 1980s. As Joseph Bravo explained during his 2018 Nightclub & Bar Show session “Evolution of Daylife,” he views MTV Spring Break as the genesis of daylife as we now know it: young LDA-plus adults gathering, socializing, partying hard and spending money on food and beverage during the day.

However, the party locales featured on MTV Spring Break didn’t really exist in real life. There weren’t bars out there that offered guests what Spring Break presented to its viewers. The seed, though, had been planted—it just needed time to germinate. Cut to 2003, and the idea of a dayclub (or beach club) had taken root. The shoot—Rehab Beach Club, as it’s now known—broke through the soil.

A New Category is Born

From there, the concept evolved, and it continues to do so. The pool that Rehab called home had originally been conceived and constructed as a resort pool, not a party hot spot that would host several thousand guests each day it was open. To that point, Rehab was only supposed to be open on Sundays. Demand from tourists willing the shell out for a room just to experience the daylife venue motivated the operators to add Saturday to the lineup. Now, Rehab is available every day of the week.

Daylife venue design, on the grandest of scales, has evolved as well. Looking at Rehab again, the pool has a deep end of six feet. This is because the venue wasn’t designed and built specifically to function as a dayclub. For safety, the dayclubs that have come after Rehab rarely—if ever—feature pools that are deeper than three-and-a-half feet deep.

Not all daylife evolved into Rehab or its fellow Las Vegas dayclubs and beach clubs, of course. Such venues are colossal examples of where daylife can go. The future of daylife is smaller venues with well-designed outdoor spaces. If an operation can do what Rehab originated 15 years ago on a comparable scale, that’s incredible. But most operations across the country are incapable of executing on that level due to physical and budgetary constraints. Some can scale down Rehab-type promotions to work in their market, which is fantastic. But operators don’t need to go to the lengths of over-the-top Las Vegas dayclubs to leverage the evolution of daylife.

The Concept Matures

The popularity of brunch and the growing maturity of daylife represent the profitable convergence of two revenue-generating, guest loyalty-creating options. The opportunities provided by the meeting of these two hospitality industry forces should not be ignored. Cautious operators can dip their toes into the daylife pool by reimagining their outdoor spaces as Sunday brunch oases that are true to their brand and concept. Operators who are more cautiously optimistic than just cautious can add Saturday (and even Friday) to their brunch promotions. From there, daytime promotions like that of LAVO’s Party Brunch (winner, Nightclub & Bar Decadent Brunch Soirée award) can come to fruition.

As warm weather arrives and operators engage their staffs in deep spring cleaning, daylife should be firmly planted in their minds. Ownership and management need to come together and take stock of their space, design, budgets and labor pool (it's no small or inexpensive task to open earlier or add staff labor hours). The logistics of adding or enhancing this daypart are not to be taken lightly.

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It’s also a bit late to consider a renovation in April, but a great alternative and smart starting place is an outdoor area refresh. Inviting outdoor furniture, appropriate pops of color, bar games and other forms of outdoor entertainment, misters and heaters—even a small water feature—all communicate daylife and can make a powerful impact without breaking the bank. Bar teams, kitchen staff and promoters should be brought together to create daylife menus and promotions.

“The thing is, with Rehab, it was never meant to be what it is now,” said Bravo. “The dayclub scene was not meant to be this giant monolith of the industry to make money.” Yet here we are. Given the money that daylife can generate, operators need to give serious thought about steering their venues and brands towards daylife. The guests have spoken, and evolution is taking its course.