As with any university town, bars and clubs are an important “resource” utilised by students (and staff) alike. St Andrews is no different. Following on from last week’s column on beer prices across the town I thought I would take a deeper look into the current options for a good “night out” and what seems to be the most effective pricing strategies used by the small number of establishments across the area. If you exclude smaller bars and pubs, there are only three options available to you if you want a bog- standard, alcohol-infused night out of aimless dancing and embarrassment. Accounting for the fact that Ma Bells is currently out of the game, due to its redevelopment, you are only left with the Union, the Vic and The Lizard. Each offering a completely different vibe and atmosphere with some being far more favourable than others.
Not much needs to be said about the current domain of Miss Hill. The Union is just what it says on the tin, albeit a currently dishevelled, half glass, half concrete, out-of- date mess of a tin. Assuming there is no formal event on, entrance is as cheap as the air we breathe. The Building Site Bar – so called for its uncanny resemblance to a building site, funnily enough situated within a building site – throws beverages at you which are cheap as chips: £2 for Tennent’s, £1 for shots. My opinion on the Union in its current state goes beyond just the price of its drinks. Granted, it is the cheapest place for students to go frolicking around on a Friday night, but I believe you pay for it in lack of ambiance and, generally, good chat. Thus, the cost-benefit of going to the Union is a negative one.
I find that there are particular regulars always in attendance, keen on blanketing the place with their serial boredom and lack of oomph; destined on making the venue more of a sitting room than a student hangout. It is my undying hope that the redevelopment will inject a new feel to the Union with regards to this issue and rid the regular cronies, hell-bent on social destruction, from their rocking chairs.
Then there is the Vic – a typical example of a scaled down, British club. It is commendable that such a place exists within the town, given the ludicrous pressures put on any possible movement into the twenty first century for local business by the council and the preservation trust (I mean, loud noises after darkness? What utter poppycock!). Entrance is typically around £3 which is not too much of a dent on the budget. What I have an issue with is when they advertise £1 shots, and it turns out that only Sambuca is a pound – I have really disliked Sambuca ever since my small trip to the forbidden island of Zante, taking part in the completely generic “lads’ holiday”. Inside, you do get a club-like environment and depending on the DJ, the atmosphere can be quite intense. The problem with the Vic, for me, is that it does not seem very individual. It strives for that standard venue “indie” look, much like the patrons who frequent the place. As long as you do not go too often, I think value for money can be achieved on a night out in the Vic, providing that you do not go over board on the drinks.
Last but certainly not least, is the Lizard. A staple in every first years’ social life; the bedrock of societal synergy amongst teens of the town. I feel slightly bad about saying anything bad about this infamous place, but it is only right I get my concerns off my chest. The Lizard is not what is used to be. It has seriously lost an edge over the competition since it cancelled its loyalty card scheme and started charging higher prices upon entry after twelve. From what started like a strong branding lift by the quasi-dance club has dived into a pitifully weak entertainment space. Previously, with the time constraint of having to get in before twelve and being able to get in for free once you purchased your “Lizard Card”, you treated the place like a failsafe. A safety blanket if things did not go to plan on a night out or your group of friends could not decide what to do. But now, as it has become more club-like (only in function and price might I add), it has stepped too much into Vic territory. I now cannot help myself from judging the completely disgraceful attempt their resident DJ gives at jockeying the disks. It is not often I can say with full confidence that I could most certainly do a better job mixing songs than the man in question.
What we all need is for Ma Bells to finally reopen its doors and put a spanner in the works of St Andrews’ nightlife. I feel its reintroduction will rebalance the social scene in the town and finally put the Lizard back in its place. It is very interesting that the previously small venue on the edge of the sea managed to bring in such a great feel without charging an entrance fee. Ma Bells: please, I beg of you, finally open your doors to me and take my money!