Devil's Advocate: Is St Andrews' Pub Not Club Nightlife A Good Thing?
Yes: Amelia Perry (79%)
In my own experience (and I’m sure, and that of the majority of St Andrews students), people normally have three things to say when they find out you willingly go to one of the smallest, most isolated unis in the country. There’s the obvious Kate and Wills comment, probably a snarky joke about Oxbridge and then, my personal favourite, the slight grimace and the “Oh god how’s the nightlife?”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m under absolutely no illusion whatsoever that we’re giving Leeds a run for their money here. And, if we’re being honest, everyone who comes to St Andrews knew exactly what they were signing up for — three streets, culty red gowns, and all. If you weren’t aware of the significant lack of your traditional uni night out, well, in the nicest way possible, that’s a you problem. But I do think our blanket reputation as the boring uni is a little unfair, mainly because what we lack in clubs, we more than make up for in pubs, which can only be a good thing. Admittedly, here is perhaps where my Britishness gets in the way of being entirely subjective. The pub as we know it is an inescapable staple of British culture and identity. I mean, we’re talking about a country where the Prime Minister once left his eight-year-old daughter in the pub by mistake. They are a treasured (and quite frankly, irreplaceable) institution, and I for one will not hear a bad word against them. Nor do I appreciate people brushing them off as an unacceptable place to spend your evenings.
For one thing, a pub trip requires absolutely zero effort whatsoever. There’s no frantically planning pres and running to Tesco before all the booze is gone and you are left with the delights (horrors?) of another night on the Isla Negra (or even worse, the dreaded Silver Bay). Nor do you have to text people asking what they’re wearing only to receive four responses all revolving around the incredibly unhelpful and (dare I say it, uninspiring) option of jeans and a nice top. Best of all, there’s no queuing until you invariably sober up and start to question why you're surrounded by people in very small Oh Polly dresses who were born in 2004 — last time I checked they were all still in Year Seven and I’m deeply uncomfortable with the prospect of them drinking. Sure, that’s fun sometimes, but night after night? I think not. Rather, you need only ask precisely which pub you’ll be frequenting. Incidentally, someone’s first choice of St Andrews pub says a lot about who they are as a person and can be a useful indication of whether you’re likely to want to spend time with them in future. I’ll save naming names for another time, but just know that I can and will be judging you.
“But what about my beloved morning debriefs?” I hear you ask. Okay, admittedly my defence of the humble British pub may fall a little short here. Perhaps the morning after your night in the pub won’t be as filled with light-hearted tales of you or your friends snogging people you really shouldn’t have, but is that a huge loss? For all the fun gossip that results from a night out clubbing, there is nearly always some incident or other that isn’t so fun. Whether that was scooping up your drunk, crying friend off the floor of a sticky bathroom floor for the third time this week, or having to deploy 007-worthy levels of stealth to avoid that person making an incredibly persistent but unwanted advance; it all counts as drama that our lives are simply better off without. And, it’s drama that can be avoided merely by choosing a night in the pub instead. That’s not to say that clubbing can’t be fun, but maybe St Andrews’ lack of them makes you appreciate a proper night out more. Not to mention, there’s a distinctly more social experience about going to the pub with friends than going clubbing. You can’t get lost as easily, for one thing, and, at the risk of sounding like a grandmother, you can actually converse with people too.
It could be a birthday, a good old catch up, or a date. Or maybe you just had a particularly rough Thursday. What’s the one thing these all have in common? They can all be vastly improved by going to the pub — which brings me on to my next point. Perhaps a pub’s best quality is its versatility. Whether it’s a celebration or you just really needed a drink that day, I can guarantee that most problems can be solved by nursing a drink in your favourite pub with your favourite people. Hopefully, though, the one thing we can all agree on is that there is only one truly burning question that needs answering — precisely why don’t we have a Spoons yet?
No: Summer King (21%)
Roaring music, blazing lights, pungent-smelling shots on the table, flashes of your best friend on their way to go embarrass themselves in an irreparable manner to the beat of No Hands by Waka Flocka Flame — these are the moments that every university student should unequivocally have a right to. Unfortunately, this memory is not one that students of St Andrews can have, instead we are forced to socialise and fraternise in the hubs of old white men — pubs. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good pub outing … on a Tuesday night. At a time when I just need a pint to get myself through the pain of three hours' worth of lectures on the impact of the railway system on 18th century tourists, a pub serves its purpose. But when that last Friday tutorial hits, not a single iota of my body desires a chill night watching whichever football game is splayed on the weirdly distanced screens of every local taproom. I instead vicariously dream of an uninhibited night of wildly dancing in the most dangerously skimpy outfit bought in the clearance aisle of our local H&M. It’s a bit strange moving from a big city to this small town where most uni students don’t look back on their younger days to relive their greatest memories of nights out partying until the sun comes up.
While pubs might be the cultural norm people envision when thinking of Scotland (the home of the youthful fruity cocktail known as “Scotch whisky”), much of the UK has proven that bar life can reign strong in towns overrun by students. Edinburgh, Leeds, Glasgow, even Dundee all have fervent and reputable clubs and bars leaving them to receive the honour of boasting the UK's best nightlife. They don’t necessarily lack pubs, they simply prioritise a great night over a fine time. It’s not as if St Andrews students don’t have the stamina or desire to party hard, most society events have proven quite different. Instead, if you want a night out, one is forced to reluctantly buy a ticket for whichever lacklustre event is on at the “bars” or, to drag yourself to what is always an absolutely horrid flat party.
Now, I won’t exactly trample on pubs, because I both frequent them and would like to not be blacklisted, but mainly because they are the perfect setting for any pres. But a night out at a pub is simply not possible. What sort of a night out is it if nothing stays open past 23:30 (a generous 12 am on weekends)? And it’s not as if their drinks are significantly cheaper when compared to any of our town's “bars”. The basic bars of St Andrews: Beacon or Main Bar, The Vic, The Rule, The Adamson and even the infamous 601, all have the essential drinks that your favourite pub provides, and more. There is absolutely nothing more enjoyable than rocking up to the front of the Rule and purchasing a £10 cocktail pitcher, picking up a straw and then proceeding to drink an entire jug of Sex on the Beach all on your own. The Solaro’s at the Vic will always beat out any Guinness, and the Union’s shot prices make 601’s terrible music (moderately) more bearable.
While one may disparage the effort it takes to go out to a bar, many (including myself) love the process of getting ready and looking your best. There’s always excitement in picking your outfit for the night, blasting your most energetic playlist while meticulously choosing whichever accessories will best fit this week's Throwbacks. While pubs might also provide community, there's a fiery anticipation when getting ready with your friends, chatting about which of your sneaky links you’ll seek out right before you hit (the highly superior) Courtyard for the crispiest and most mouth-watering cheesy chips in town. It’s the fun in the removal of inhibitions that clubs provide; there's nothing quite like the entertainment of waking up to twenty new follow requests from people you barely (or don’t at all) remember. The memories you make on a night out, good or bad, are always worth the stories you can tell, as unfortunately, most pub nights are often … boring. If you're going to get drunk, you might as well make a night of it.
St Andrews needs more clubs, 601 alone is simply not going to cut it. And I'll admit that there are dangers that come with a more active nightlife, such as spiking or overdrinking, but both of these are issues the town already faces. While the preservation of Scottish identity (in the form of pubs naturally) is important to keep in this town, there’s no ignoring the massive community of university students who desperately need their identity maintained in the emancipation that an actual
Image: Amie Johnson, Unsplash