The Craft Cocktail Movement (and let’s face it, also the Craft Beer Movement) has been a boon to owners and operators capable of creating, staying ahead of, or otherwise embracing trends in an authentic way. Authentic is the operative word because, as you likely know, Millennials will eviscerate you via social media if you seem like you’re trying too hard (or, in some cases, trying at all). You run the risk of being torn apart if you’re late to pick up on a trend, are deemed a corporate entity attempting to capitalize on the latest fad, or guilty of committing one of any of the dozen Uncool Sins that can destroy your credibility with this influential demographic.
Only slightly more than 60% of Millennials go to nightclubs according to ULI and Lachman Associates. Of that percentage of Millennials, only 25% go to clubs more than once per month. An anonymous survey discovered that this powerful demographic cited high drink prices, cover charges, long waits to both get into a club and, once inside, for drinks, excessively loud music, pretentious customers and atmosphere, rude staff members, large crowds, getting jostled, and the inability to have a conversation as factors influencing their decision to stay away from nightclubs. Anymore, Millennials are going to clubs only when visiting a new city or for special events.
Because of the Craft Cocktail Movement, consumers can find innovative, exciting cocktails that are made well at their neighborhood bar. Even nationwide chains have entered the fray, adopting cocktail culture and picking up on unique spirits and brands. Millennials are also more prone to host and attend house parties. Technology has made it incredibly easy to discover new music, spirits brands, cocktails, and even new people, so why do they need nightclubs?
It isn’t just Millennials that are eschewing nightclubs for hip cocktail lounges, comfortable neighborhood bars, and house parties. The constant barrage of information and stimulation that bombards people of all ages at all times each and every day has created hordes of jaded customers, and that affects nightlife just as much as any other consumer-driven industry. People want wants new, they want it now, and they don’t want to miss out. How do nightclub operators draw them through their doors?
Two words: tableside mixology. Clearly it’s difficult, outside of Vegas and the rest of the Big 6, to convince demographic groups such as Millennials to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the privilege of sitting at a table being served vodka cocktails. But offer groups the opportunity to experience mixology in a different way in an unexpected setting and you’ll pique their interest. There are, at this point, two common ways to promote tableside mixology. There’s the DIY approach that allows guests to create their own cocktails by choosing a package focused on, for example, the Moscow Mule. This allows a nightclub to offer tiers of brands, glassware, ice, mixers, garnishes, etc. Then, there’s the actual mixologist(s) building drinks at the table, à la CliQue Bar & Lounge inside The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
CliQue’s main focus is mixology and inclusiveness, two things that even the most skeptical hipster should be able to appreciate. They feature both classic cocktails and signature creations made with fresh ingredients, and offer beverages that are smoked or even infused at the table, allowing the guests to engage with the mixologist and watch their drink being made without being jostled at the bar. The new Vegas concept has no cover and is committed to the tenets of hospitality.
“We’ve seen the city take a turn,” says Ryan Labbe of 81/82 Group, “from a Las Vegas that is very exclusive to people, locals and tourists, looking for a place where there is [no cover] you have to pay to have the experience.”
There is no reason that nightclubs can’t leverage the Craft Cocktail Movement. The key, it would seem, is to find a way to put a spin on mixology that allows a nightclub to become a cocktail destination and not just another venue jumping on a hot trend.