Club Owners Have Set Their Sights On The Older Generation

You’re in Chicago or New York City. It’s eleven thirty “and the club is jumpin’, jumpin’.” But this isn’t your typical club, and these are not your typical club kids. Most of the patrons drinking and dancing are, get this, well into their 40s. Record skip. Right now, you’re thinking, “Wait, what?”

I know, I know. “But clubs are for 20-somethings, not grown, mature folks like me, right?” you say. Wrong. These days, club owners are catering to a brand new, older clientele, and for them, it’s big business.

According to the Wall Street Journal, club owners have seen slow growth in the $24 billion industry. The solution to lagging sales? Club owners have set their sights on a different age group – 45- to 54-year olds.

Why? Because these days, data indicate that these folks spend more on entertainment than any other age group. They’re not at home in their jammies binging on Netflix. Instead, they’re out on the town, and that doesn’t just mean an early dinner. This group is spending more than their share at bars, nightclubs, and lounges.

Club owners are on to this fact, and they’re looking to capitalize on it. So far, their efforts are paying off.

Take one example of a patron’s story that the WSJ illustrates. This patron, a 47-year-old woman, was leery of going out to a dance club because she was thought “she couldn’t keep up with the 20-somethings.”

But she didn’t have to. The dance club was Retroclubnyc, and that night it featured a “throwback theme,” offering Long Island Iced Teas and Sloe Gin Fizzes and spinning ‘70s and ‘80s hits. The scene was geared towards people of her generation, and these same people packed the club.

The patron and her husband, who have three school-age children, “got home well past their self-imposed midnight curfew.” Afterwards, the patron explained her hesitance and the resulting fun she had by telling the WSJ: “You don’t go to clubs after you have kids, but then they get a little older and you want to reclaim your social life.”

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And she isn’t alone. So many people in middle-age are doing just that – reclaiming their social lives by going out for night on the town. What’s different, perhaps, is that this isn’t a night of bar-hopping. Instead, clubs and other establishments are trying to turn themselves into a one-stop-shop for an evening of partying.

Some restaurants, for instance, have given the décor and layout a makeover to give more of a nightclub vibe, reported the chief executive at Barmetrix, a nightlife consulting firm, to the WSJ. According to Barmetrix, the firm has seen growth in projects like this over the last few years.

Why the facelifts? The Barmetrix executive explained that “older patrons are more likely to stay and drink after dinner. The goal is to keep them at the venue; dancing ‘loosens people up’ and helps drive sales of alcohol and water.”

Oh, and gone are the days of handing out flyers and hiring promoters. To draw this niche age group, club owners, reports the WSJ, are doing things like swapping electronic dance music for popular, themed music (like disco); creating smaller, lounge-inspired dance spaces, sometimes between booths; offering high-end bottle service with unique cocktail mixers; and advertising complimentary dinner (like a $45 prime skirt steak) and drinks to older influencers in exchange for social-media posts.

Let’s talk about the bottle service. At some venues, the service is priced at between $250 and $1,000. What do you get for that price tag? Liquor is served “in crystal decanters, along with freshly squeezed juices, and cordials in flavors such as watermelon Thai basil,” reports the WSJ. This level of high-end service is offered at reservation-only booths, upping the luxury factor and targeting a middle-aged crowd looking for an intimate club experience, not just an opportunity to get sloppy drunk.

In Chicago, club owners are taking the same cue. At Celeste, a restaurant and lounge, the third floor is a disco, complete with fluorescent-lit floors. Earlier this year, the space hosted a legendary DJ from New York’s famed Studio 54. The owners of Celeste told the WSJ that “for the older crowd, it’s very nostalgic.”

So, my question is, “Why not?” After all, this generation has secured careers, raised kids, and are looking to reclaim some “me” time. They’ve done “mature.” They’ve done “grown up.” Now, perhaps, it’s time to do some dancing, preferably with a glass of nice champagne in hand. I don’t know about you, but “you can find me in the club.”

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