Clubbing in a Down Market

By Gamal Hennessy

News about the bad economy is everywhere you turn. Gas is $4 a gallon. It’s easier to get an STD than it is to get credit. Home prices are in the toilet. Financial institutions are collapsing under the strain and CEO’s are sneaking out with million dollar exit packages. This sounds like a good time to get a drink…or three. The bad news is that it might not be a good idea to order the $500 bottle or pay the $15 per drink tab that often comes with New York nightlife. The good news is that you don’t always have to pay high prices to have a good night. Here are some tips to make your night out less expensive…

Change your day: There are clubs open in New York every night of the week. Many of the spots that charge high covers and even higher drink prices on the weekends often have no cover and lower drink prices during the week to entice locals to venture out on a work night. You might still get the occasional weekend pricing if a big name is performing, but there are plenty of happy hours, drink specials and other incentives to make it a cheap night. Just don’t go overboard. You have to go to work in the morning.

Change your location: Maybe you live too far away from the city to go out on a Tuesday. You can still save some cash on the weekend if you move your party to a new location. Do you find yourself constantly standing on a long line on the West Side, debating on whether to buy a bottle pay some other ransom to get in? The Village, Lower East Side and Flatiron District are all teaming with lounges, bars and small clubs that often have lower covers on the weekend than the mega clubs. You won’t get as much space to get your dance on, but the DJ’s are usually just as good and Petron tastes the same uptown or downtown.

Change your focus: If your idea of a good night is buying a couple bottles and holding down the VIP, these economic times might be painful. The good news is that New York isn’t just about bottle service. You can switch up your game and check out live music, comedy clubs, or dance lounges in every part of town. You can even stick to your normal hangout spot, minus the bottle. Who knows, if you’re not stuck at the table guarding the bottle, you might actually be able to hit the dance floor…

Work from the inside: The bartender, DJ, dancer promoter and other people working at the club all have one thing in common; they don’t have to pay to get in and they don’t have to pay to drink. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not always easy. If your hustle takes you behind the velvet rope, a club night is a mixture of work and play, and you can’t just go home when you’re tired, and it takes a little work to actually land a nightlife job but once you get in you won’t be spending money in the club. You’ll be making it.

Know somebody: Nightlife is a social experience. If you’re friends with AmEx, you can have a good time because your credit is good. If you’re friends with the doorman, DJ, manager or someone with influence in the club you can have a good time because people take care of their friends. This is an investment in time as opposed to money because the connections that open doors take time to develop. And every connection you make won’t lead to Moet in the VIP room because that’s not how it works. If you have (or had) a job in nightlife knowing people comes with the job, but you can often achieve similar results with your winning smile and sparkling personality.

A special note for the ladies: Women can have a harder time clubbing in a down economy if they play it the wrong way. The money they can spend on hair, make-up, clothes and shoes that can bankrupt many men. If they add cover charges, drinks and cab fees to that, the costs can quickly get out of hand. While I’m not suggesting women become the nightlife equivalent of the dinner whore, I am saying that ladies night, and free drinks from the guys (as long as they’re not spiked) are good ways to reduce your costs.

Have fun.