They’re generally less-than-immaculate establishments full of barely-legal drinkers who may not yet know “when to say when,” but college bars have been a staple with students for as long as anyone can remember. In spite of Ladies Night and other college discount specials, some college bars are experiencing less business than ever before. Why?
Some people are starting to believe that social media may be to blame.
Even though the majority of undergrads are under the age of 21, you don’t have to be a student yourself to realize that there’s certainly not a shortage of alcohol consumption among the college crowd.
According to the Century Council, a Virginia-based non-profit organized and funded by a group of distillers in 1991 to promote responsible decision-making about alcohol while eliminating drunk- and underage-drinking, 17% of 12-20 year olds and 42% of full-time college students admit to binge drinking within the past month. And in addition to organized studies performed by groups like the Century Council, let’s not forget the abundance of media coverage on alcohol-related hazing tragedies and other similar topics.
So despite the fact that college students obviously love partying, often with the goal of simply getting drunk and potentially hooking up with members of the opposite sex, they want to get the most bang for their buck. After all, they’re broke college students, right? So rather than hitting the bars and paying a pretty penny for every single drink they consume, they are pre-partying before they go out. (In layman’s terms, pre-partying is merely drinking at home or in the dorms prior to going out to organized events or bars.)
Not surprisingly, this trend is nothing new. Back in 2007, USA Today wrote of a study led by Joseph LaBrie, director of an alcohol awareness program at the Loyola Marymount University in L.A., and roughly half of college students surveyed reported pre-partying before they went out drinking. The term pre-party really is accurate—LaBrie’s research found that 80% of pre-parties involved additional drinking afterward.
Parents, doctors, professors and other members of the public may be disturbed at the amount of alcohol being consumed, but college bar owners are distraught because their profits are shrinking. Not only are students pre-partying, they are utilizing social media to determine whether or not a trip to the bar is even worthwhile.
Before text messaging and social media apps like Facebook and Foursquare, both of which allow users to “check in” at particular locations and instantly share their whereabouts with friends, students would gather at the bars to determine their plans for the rest of the evening. The New York Times points out that there are even location-based apps for people who are interested in meeting up with others for the sole purpose of … well, you know!
“Students don’t need bars to create a community the way they used to,” Stephani Robson of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, who specializes in restaurant psychology, explained to the Times. Ithaca, NY, where Ivy-League Cornell is located, isn’t the only area experiencing dwindling college bar attendance and sales, but three once-popular venues in this college town have closed in the last year.
Some students “won’t pay even $2 for a drink,” one retired former bar owner said matter-of-factly.
In hopes of appealing more to today’s college students, members of Generation Y, who grew up accustomed to nice things and getting their own way, bars are attempting to clean up their images with nicer furnishings and more hard liquor on the menu. One young adult who was interviewed for the article said that he prefers drinking liquor because “beer takes too long” to work.
And even though bar owners may be quick to point fingers at social media for lowering their attendance and profits, some bartenders are now required to download drink mixing apps to their own smart phones to accommodate strange drink requests.
Students, want to save even more money? Consider skipping the alcohol altogether every now and then. Your parents would probably be thrilled!
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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