I will confess at the outset that I have no intention of providing fair and balanced analysis here. I have a clear bias and conscious agenda. I mean to show why dance clubs represent the lowest, most dishonest, most dangerous, and least fun drinking establishments known to modern man. I am well aware there are many who disagree with this assessment, as the weekend lines stretching around the block barricaded by red velvet ropes in cities around the world will attest to. There are many people who will boast of how awesome their local club scene is and call me a hater for saying these things. The problem with these people is that they are wrong, so wrong, and they should be ashamed of themselves.
I am not coming to this conclusion from a place of ignorance. I have given dance clubs more than their fair shake. In the dozen years since I’ve been of legal drinking age, I have earned my living almost exclusively through working behind bars of various kinds. On the nights I wasn’t working, more often than not, I went out and drank at bars. If I had to clock it, I would say without fear of exaggeration that I have spent more than 3,000 nights of my life drinking at bars. Dive bars, sports bars, restaurant bars, gimmick bars, fancy bars, neighborhood bars, metal bars, biker bars, and yes, dance club bars. I’m not bragging. In almost any other circumstance I would be squeamish to admit this. But in a discussion about what constitutes a fun spot to get hammered, I want to make it clear that I can speak from a position of authority.
I’ll begin with the most obvious point: dance clubs are a ripoff. The cover charge is a con game, plain and simple. The product that you presumably intend to spend the rest of your night buying resides inside the club, yet you have to pay an additional, often exorbitant, fee for the privilege of entering so you can spend more money? Imagine the arrogance it takes to ask for payment before providing any kind of service or value. It all goes toward the not so subtle implication that you, the customer, are a worthless trash person who is lucky to be let in. When you pay for entrance to a concert or a play there is an implicit understanding that the performance on the stage is the product you are buying. A dance floor is not a stage and, despite what your douchiest friends may tell you, a DJ is not a performer.
The chicanery doesn’t improve once you get inside. Your average dance club bar features a basic selection of name brand beers and liquors, with two ingredient rocks cocktails served with appallingly low standard pours for prices near double what they would be anywhere else. Add to that the fact that you will often find yourself waiting in excess of five minutes for a drink while getting bumped and jostled by a sea of sweating, desperate humanity and it becomes impossible not to ask yourself why the fuck you’re paying nine bucks for a Bud Light. I realize that many dance club patrons are more the “coke in the bathroom” than “shots at the bar” type, but the establishment doesn’t get to take credit for the quality of the drugs they aren’t selling.
Of course, if you don’t like the bar wait and pricing, you can always do yourself a favor and elect for the VIP/bottle service upgrade. This consists of shelling out several hundred dollars, plus tips and hidden fees that often go unmentioned by the staff, for the privilege of sitting in a semi-secluded dark corner with your friends and drinking out of a bottle of booze you get to keep at your table. I say semi-secluded because you are still very visible to all the peasants who couldn’t afford this luxury as they elbow each other for space and gaze longingly at you and your better life. And that’s the real point of all this spending: winning the status game created by the club owner. At every step of your experience, from the line outside to the bar service to the dance floor, these places encourage you to feel outside, less than, lower. There is a clearly enforced social hirerarchy determined almost entirely by your willingness to waste your money for arbitrary perks or, if you are pretty enough, flirt your way to them. This creates a zero sum competition which leads to a palpable tension. You can feel the people eyeing each other. They get needlessly aggressive. They get mean. They get violent.
I have seen more bar fights than I can remember. I’ve seen guys grab each other just waiting to be broken apart, I’ve seen giant brawls that spread out through the entire place, I’ve seen dudes kicked and stomped on the ground, dudes pulling out knives, dudes with busted faces leaking blood, dudes who get beaten up by the bouncers, girls fighting girls, girls fighting guys, glasses thrown at bartenders, fights spilling out to the sidewalk, and probably a whole lot else I can’t even remember. Without fail, though, the worst and most violent fights I have ever seen occurred in dance clubs. This is true regardless of the price range of the club or the neighborhood it resides in: these places are dangerous. When you invite a crowd of insecure strangers into a small space, amp up sexual tension and competition, and pour alcohol on the situation, people are going to throw down. Young men often walk through this world with pitifully frail egos and an abject terror of social humiliation which makes the status theater of dance clubs a powder keg of imagined slights and desperate boasts. The very worst place you can be after ten PM is surrounded by young males trying to get laid. You may as well climb into a tiger cage.
There are lots of things to do at night. There are many places to go. There are a million people to meet and, if you want, hook up with. Don’t fall for the false promises of a great time in a glittery basement. Don’t let some greasy haired idiot con your money from you with a sales pitch about the transformative power of a monotonous beat. Don’t lie to yourself that you look great as you button up that shiny shirt two sizes too small. Don’t wait in line trying to look cool for a bunch of other people waiting in line trying to look cool. Don’t try so hard. Don’t go to dance clubs.