Upon returning from Wyoming and having no real job in hand, I revisited my life's motto of "security is security" and ended up working for a security company a friend owned. They specialized in armed security so most of the gigs were prisoner transport, body guard work, and the infamous "protecting spoiled rotten Saudi Prince brats and his entourage of 120 equally douchy elitists." However, before you were allowed to work one of these easier shifts, you had to prove your mettle working the hated "parking ramp shifts."
These "parking ramp shifts" were really nothing more than "baby sitting the night clubbers" shifts where you would prevent fights, stop people from pissing in the stairwells, watch black women fight over "their man," and even prevent the occasional Russian body builder from kidnapping a pass-out party girl. This was only made infinitely worse in the fact we had to patrol on foot which, during Minnesota winters, made life miserable.
But through all the headaches and hypothermia that comes with baby sitting the Twin Cities' club-going filth, I did notice something those 3 short years ago - there was only a FRACTION of the night clubs that used to be open during the 90's.
First Avenue (a night club) was still the "anchor club" of the Twin Cities and still in business. Same for The Gay 90's. And The Fine Line, another reliable standby, was also open for business. But nearly every other club or bar I went to was now gone. Daddy Rock's was no longer. Banana Joe's gone. Even Old Chicago (not a club, but just a bar) was gone too. And they weren't necessarily replaced with new clubs either. In short, there was by my quick economist eye only about 40% the amount of clubs that existed during my night clubbing days 20 years ago.
Fast forward three years to today and it's even worse.
The Times Cafe, gone.
Fhima (a St. Paul club), gone.
"Block E" (an entire BUILDING of night clubs) gone.
And the over-hyped, over-rated "Capital Grille" gone (thank god).
There is just nowhere near the night club life that once existed in the Twin Cities.
Of course, as economists are wont to do, they research things they see happening in real life. And after poking around on teh interwebz the death of the night club industry is an interesting and telling death.
First, there is not so much a "death" in the night life scene as a stagnation and a shift. Revenues for the "bar and nightclub industry" are stagnant, if not slightly dropping if you account for inflation. However, the Minneapolis club scene has not "stagnated," it's cratered. So how do these figures jive? Simple, the data is for the "BAR AND night club industry."
While nightclubs may be tanking, bars are doing quite well. This would explain why nearly every night club I attended during Clinton's administration are gone, but the neighborhood bars are still around.
Lee's Liquor Lounge, The CC Club, Jax Cafe, etc., all neighborhood bars, all still in business.
Second, this is corroborated by the most cited reason for the industry's decline- "The Great Recession." While Gen X may have been whooping it up in the Dotcom days, drinking and partying themselves into oblivion, they at least did not graduate into "The Great Recession." Their modern day Millennial peers have. And not only are the Millennials facing the worst job market since the Great DEPRESSION, they are also saddled with more college debt than any generation in the history of the world. Combine that with their worthless degrees and they plain don't have the money to afford a cover charge and drinks.
This has led to two behavioral changes. One, Millennials now pre-drink at home, getting within one drink of a proper buzz. And two, they avoid cover charges, commuting/parking expenses, and DWI's by walking to their local bar.
The third reason for the nightclub's demise, however, is the really interesting one. Because no professional publication or researcher can speak of it, even though it is the core and the heart of the nightclub business - sex. Specifically women.
When we wipe away all the politically correct "industry research" jargon and cut through the bullshit, night clubs are all about men wanting to get sex from women. And even though they may not come outright and say it, club owners are ACUTELY aware of this and it shows in their business models.
EVERY nightclub knows you have to get hot women into the club, otherwise the men (with their money) will not show up. Therefore you have "ladies night," drink specials for ladies, sometimes women even get to drink for free, and if you're a 20 something female in America you don't even know what a "cover charge" is.
This presents a problem however. Wherever there are hot women, horny and thirsty men are sure to follow. And their constant advances will inevitably scare away women. Therefore, how do you get women to show up AND stay AND return next week?
Make the nightclub environment incredibly hostile towards men and incredibly tailored towards women.
You ever wonder why nightclub music is not only shitty, but incredibly loud? It's so the girl can get you to buy her a drink, but not have to talk to you.
You notice how the music is the most monotonous remixed pop top 40's crap that has not an ounce of talent in it? It's because girls like it and men don't.
And you notice how you have to stand in line, while a cute girl with a short skit gets to jump in line? It's not only because they need her as "seed capital" to "get the party started." They need to wear you out so you don't have the energy to approach (and thus harass) women in the club.
It is this "love hate" relationship nightclubs have with men (and their money) that they must delicately balance where you are encouraged to part with your money, but deterred from actually having any sexual success with women. And if they do it right, you'll have spent at least $50 of your money with them and have no girl to show for it.
Now, for the past 40 years this business model has worked. And using back of napkin statistics men have transferred roughly a trillion dollars worth of wealth to women in the form of drinks, food, cover charges (and flowers if you were stupid enough to fall for that gag where the guy is hocking roses in a bucket). But there has been an incredible game changer as of recent. One that completely obsoletes this model and has completely rewritten the rules for many other industries as well.
"Fun" as it is to go clubbing, because of the challenging environment it presents to men, it gets tiring. And even the most ardent of club-going men will burn out and seek for alternative ways to pick up women. So after spending 5 years in the nightclub scene, forking over $50 a night, to maybe, just MAYBE get laid 3 times, the majority of men will inevitably do a cost benefit analysis and leave. However, whereas in the past "leaving" meant giving up and basically staying home (or trying to "meet girls at church" or work, etc.), now men can get what they want (sex) by going online. And the reasons are just too compelling.
First you waste nowhere NEAR the amount of time you do going clubbing. There's no commute. There's no finding parking. There's no waiting in line. And there's no competing against 3 other guys for the same girl.
You fire up your laptop, set up a profile, and start firing off messages.
Naturally, the vast majority of your advances will be rejected and is the primary reason many men say online dating isn't worth it (for example a recently divorced friend of mine complained he had to spend a full hour a night online to get a date for that weekend). But a mere hour a night is NOTHING compared to what 20 something men pre-internet invested daily in their pursuit of women.
Second, the financial costs. Online dating is effectively free. Either by going through Plenty of Fish, Tinder, or meetup groups where you indirectly try to find women, there is really no significant added marginal cost to start online dating. Contrast that with 40 nights a year of clubbing for 5 years at $50 a pop, and you save yourself $10,000 in explicit financial costs merely going online.
And finally, the sanity you save. In going online you avoid the nearly impossible environment that nightclubs have become:
Women who have their "bitch shields" up as they gussied themselves up earlier that evening with their friends in sort of a "pre-game pep talk," making them froth at the chance to shoot men down (and consequently cry themselves to sleep later that night because "they can't find a man.")
The 100%-USDA-Certified-Full-Backing-and-Faith-of-the-US-Government GUARAN-FREAKING-TEE that there will be a fatty cockblocker there to pull ANY girl you're having success with away.
The "herd" you must masterfully penetrate or wait until a weak one separates herself from the herd, only to have the mother hen fatty cockblocker come in and "save her from you."
All while under the constant and never ending assault and barrage of the monotonous bass-beating of hiphop, rap, regatone, or whatever the latest "girl power" top 40's song that came out that week.
No, you just pour yourself a nice scotch, throw on Jazz24.org, and click away.
Certainly, there are economic reasons for the decline in night clubs. And certainly there are sociological/demographical reasons for the decline in nightclubs. But although the data is not perfect (there is a report I found for $1,500, but I'm not going to buy it), the real threat nightclubs face is that they no longer hold a monopoly on (effectively) the only legal means by which men ultimately pay for sex/dating. And in the face of competition from the internet their current business model is too punishing financially, mentally, and time-wise for any young man with the slightest bit of self respect and common sense.
Perhaps, with luck, there will be no need to patrol those parking ramps in the future.