by Gamal Hennessy
All nightlife patrons are not created equal.
I am not talking about differences in race, income, social status or gender. I am not referring to the reasons they might go out or the things they might like to do or the places they might like to go. The personal preferences of one patron and another is a natural and normal expression of individuality. I am talking here about basic patterns of behavior. I’m referring to the perspectives that separate one person from another and directly influence that person’s nightlife experience and the experience of the people around him or her. In my experience I have found that there are four types of residents in the nightlife space; operators, natives, amateurs and fanatics.
Operators: make the nightlife machine work. They are the people who offer the services and experiences that patrons come to enjoy. Operators exist on many levels and perform a wide variety of functions. Everyone from the owner of a venue to the manager, bartender, DJ, musician, hostess, waitress, security guard, dancer, sound technician and promoter are one level or another “operating” in nightlife. For many of them it is a passion. For all of them it is a business. Whenever you go out and enjoy a good party at a well run venue, with no fights, good service and a positive atmosphere, you have the operators to thank from the top of the food chain all the way down the line.
Natives: see nightlife as their natural habitat like a polar bear in the arctic or a tiger in the jungle. They are the people who spend a lot of time in nightlife and maintain a harmonious relationship with it. These are the people who go out to on a regular basis for a variety of different reasons and experiences; lounging with friends one night, listening to new music on another night, meeting clients for drinks and then dancing with a date at the end of the week. Some of them might know operators and use those relationships to get the inside track on the latest and greatest. All of them know the spots that best suit their personalities. The most important aspect about a native is the sense of balance. These people can drink, dance, and date several nights out of the week without sacrificing their health or their ability to work and without leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
Amateurs: are relatively new to the nightlife experience. Circumstances like age, a previous lifestyle or simply being new to an urban environment have limited their exposure to clubs and the things that go on inside. New amateurs haven’t been to many venues. They don’t know what to expect when they get there. They don’t know what they can handle. They don’t know how to react in different situations and they haven’t integrated nightlife into the rest of their life. Old amateurs only go out to the clubs on rare occasions, but they go out on these same occasions every year. Although they have been exposed to nightlife on their birthday, New Year’s Eve and possibly Halloween, their relationship with nightlife is tenuous at best. Many of them still are unsure of what goes on in nightlife, many of them consume too much when they do go and many of them suffer in one way or another as a result of that over consumption. While some new amateurs evolve into natives, old amateurs shy away from repeated exposure to nightlife because of the pain associated with their over consumption.
Fanatics: combine two distinct qualities. First, they have considerable exposure to nightlife. They know where to go, they know what to do, they know what they can and can’t handle. Second they consistently strive to go beyond the limits of what they can handle with little regard for the consequences. These are the people who leave their homes at the start of the night with the mantra “Tonight, we are going to get fucked up!” They believe the volume of liquor they can drink is an indicator of their status. They see fights with other patrons and police altercations as struggles for respect and freedom. They consider the destruction of property and the disruption of people’s lives as inconsequential. They regard blackouts, hangovers and strained relationships are the cost of doing business. In the mind of the fanatic, if you’re not going to go too far, you shouldn’t bother going.
So where do you fit in?
Everyone who goes out fits into one or more categories. It might not be easy at first glance to figure out where you fit in. As I said before, it’s not based on age, standard of living, gender, race or social background. What kind of resident you are is based on your pattern of behavior and the frame of reference that guides your actions when you are out. Some patrons enhance the night, some patrons cause problems. You know who you are. The question is, are you the nightlife resident that you really want to be?