FROM BOOZE TO BEATS
AT least two nightclubs in the country’s tourism mecca say their Gen Z customers (people born between 1996 and 2010) are consuming less alcohol when they go out compared to the volumes millenials (people born between 1980 and 1995) consumed at their age. The observation in Jamaica reflects a trend seen in a research conducted recently in the United States.
Berenberg Research reported that teens and young adults are consuming over 20 per cent less alcohol per capita than millennials did at their age. Additionally, 64 per cent of Gen Z respondents anticipate drinking less as they age compared to today’s older generations. The report also found that Gen Z showed a preference for spirits, such as vodka or gin as well as wine over beer.
This movement away from alcohol is being attributed to health consciousness, social media influence, and concerns about the negative effects of alcohol on mental health.
In the face of this new reality, nightclubs and entertainment venues are devising strategies to adapt by expanding non-alcoholic drink menus, hosting alcohol-free events, focusing on live entertainment, and collaborating with non-alcoholic brands and influencers. These efforts aim to provide a more inclusive and diverse nightlife experience that appeals to a broader audience which is less interested in heavy alcohol consumption.
The Jamaica Observer spoke to James Symyrozum, operations manager of Elevate Lounge & Nightclub and Jason Russell, general manager of Pier One Restaurant and Bar, two prominent nightlife centres in Montego Bay, to determine if they are experiencing a similar trend and, if so, how they are adapting to these circumstances.
Both Symyrozum and Russel acknowledge the current trend and revealed strategies that they are utilising to evolve in this new paradigm.
“We have a lounge and around the world in lounges the sales mix is probably 60 per cent to 70 per cent liquor,” Symyrozum explained. “Sixty per cent of our sales is food. So less than 40 per cent of our sales is actually liquor.”
The operations manager, who has 31 years of experience in the restaurant, bar, and nightclub business, both locally and overseas, related that he was initially shocked by these numbers and attributes them to the trend of young people consuming less alcohol and being more focused on the social experience of going out.
“[Young] people will come to your place impeccably dressed,” he said. “They do their posts on social media. If they order a drink, they take a picture with it from 15 different angles and they don’t order another drink. It’s absolutely bizarre to me because there is a table of middle-aged men sitting 10 feet away and they are on their second flask, while the 21-year-old in the $300 outfit with the $200 shoes is nursing a margarita they have had for 45 minutes.”
Symyrozum says that in order to cater to and reach this demographic, Elevate is adjusting its strategy.
“So, for instance, on our Thursday night for our club we are now going to young people to promote it,” he disclosed. “And what is funny is that the first question out of a person’s mouth to help us promote the night isn’t, ‘Oh, can we do a drink special?’ It is, ‘Hey, can we do a hookah special?’ So we are finding that when young people are partying, it is not, ‘Hey, let’s get a bottle of white rum and get screwed up.’ It’s, ‘Let’s get dressed up. Let’s go make an appearance. Let’s go socialise. Let’s post things on social media that we’re having fun.’ “
At Pier One, Russell has been seeing lower numbers of young people at the bar’s Friday night parties. Whereas 10 to 15 years ago a snapshot of these events would reveal predominantly young people, the profile today is slightly more older patrons than younger partygoers. The general manager has attempted to address this challenge in different ways.
“I have artificially [integrated] young people into the crowd,” Russell said, revealing that he has also recruited his own nieces and nephews to help reach a younger audience.
The Pier One executive acknowledges that he has had to do research on Gen Z, learning that many young people today don’t like big crowds. He, like Symyrozum, acknowledges the influence of a culture of social media and technology which has changed the way young people socialise, where Gen Z can make new friends and interact socially without being in each other’s physical presence.
Symyrozum also notes, as the Berenberg Research suggests, that beer is less popular with Gen Z.
“We almost sell no beer, which is just bizarre,” he commented. “When I took over at Elevate I couldn’t believe that a place like this that is doing millions of dollars in sales a week goes through only a few crates of beer in one week.”
Sunday Finance reached out to Red Stripe to ascertain if they are hearing about the trend from their clients.
“We currently do not have knowledge of this trend within the Jamaican context, and our customers have not informed us of any related data,” Dianne Ashton Smith said in reply to our queries about the matter. J Wray and Nephew did not respond to requests for comments up to press time.
The point on which both executives seemed to share the most common ground is an understanding that how Gen Z relates to drinking is based on a new approach to socialising. The social experience, they say, is now social media and technology-based. Social media plays a role at the bar, in terms of trying to highlight the ‘experience’ rather than heavy alcohol consumption. And social media and technology also keep young people away from bars, offering them alternative ways of interacting that require less close contact.
Research overseas seems to back up this theory suggesting that socialising habits are changing, with fewer young people considering bars and restaurants as essential for socialising compared to millennials. It also reveals that the rising health and wellness movement is leading to a ‘NoLo’ (no and low alcohol) movement where ‘mindful drinking’ rather than complete abstinence is taking place.
There is now a need for drinking establishments and entertainment venues to find new experiences with less emphasis on alcohol â€” a difficult proposition for businesses whose profits rely heavily on liquor, spirits, and beer.