It is time more venues on and around The Square cater to the 18-20 age group.
San Marcos has a large untapped population of underage students who have a limited number of nightlife locations to frequent. Bars and pubs around The Square like Zelicks, Taproom Pub & Grill, Sean Patrick’s and Showdown are popular hotspots that offer a 21 and up environment after a designated hour each night. Part of the reason these businesses are so successful is because they are able to glean thousands of dollars in alcohol sales from older residents and students each night.
It is wise for business owners to want to avoid crackdowns by Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission officials and ensure alcohol is not sold to minors. However, business owners are missing out on a large target market by denying the 18- to 20-year-old nightlife crowd at locally-renowned establishments.
An enrollment record was set this fall for the 16th year in a row, totaling 35,568 students, according to a Sept. 18 University Star article. The incoming freshman class reached 5,181 students this year, which is a 22 percent increase from 2012, according to the same story. With so many new underclassmen heading to Texas State each year, nightlife business owners should be scrambling to accommodate the needs of this record-breaking population.
Many of these underage students have no place to go on weekends to let loose, enjoy music and hang out with friends after regular business hours. If a student is underage and has friends who are 21 or older, chances of going out as a group to popular nightlife bars are slim to none.
Business owners should follow models set in other college towns and offer an 18 and up environment each night or on designated nights. This would easily allow many underage freshmen and sophomores to hang out at establishments along and around The Square after hours without being unfairly shut out.
Northgate is a favorite location for many students in College Station. With a variety of restaurants, bars and dance venues, Northgate offers an 18 and up atmosphere to cater to the diverse student population at Texas A&M University. Many of the employees at the venues require a cover charge at the door for those who are underage, and mark the back of their hands with an “X” to ensure they will not be sold any alcohol. San Marcos venue owners should follow Northgate’s lead and implement a cover charge of anywhere from $3 to $10 to allow underage students into their establishments after hours while still making a profit.
Restaurants like Chili’s and The Railyard do not deny those who are underage from eating at their establishments just because alcohol is sold on the premises. With that logic, it does not make much sense for bar owners along The Square to deny additional business profits and prohibit such a flourishing crowd of underage students from enjoying the nightlife scene.
If even one local hotspot like Zelicks decided to offer one or multiple 18 and up nights, many other businesses would likely follow suit to stay competitive with student traffic. Profits at an 18 and up venue would likely skyrocket when factoring in alcohol sales from those of legal age and cover charges from minors.
It is understandable many business owners may be skeptical of this possibility because of increased use of fake IDs in recent years, but police patrols could continue to step up as they have in recent years along The Square. Popular local after hours hangouts need to open their doors to patrons 18 and up. They will be rewarded with a steady flow of new faces and regulars.