Are you really in St Andrews if you don’t go on a regular night out, expecting it to be satisfactory at best? It is a true indicator of the bizarre social scene we have here when we have to wait for balls or other events of that calibre to have one truly good night.
For most other universities, it is not too bold to ask for a club that is not too far out, has reasonably priced drinks, an accommodating layout for dancing, conversing, and drinking, and doesn’t necessarily require you to be wasted to enjoy it. For St Andrews students, it is a miracle if your night out fulfils even just one of those quotas. To save students the psychological trauma of bussing over to—god forbid—Dundee to experience the joys of real nightlife, management teams of the three main social venues in our town lately seem to be trying their hardest to attract crowds through increased hype and refurbishments.
Notably, this year The Vic, our familiar pub-club on Market Street, has stepped it up with some new renovations that have already proved wildly popular among freshers and returners alike. This autumn is the first time that the venue has gone through refurbishments since its facelift back in 2012 to rival The Lizard (may it rest in peace). The social club area has been widened with the removal of the wall between the bar and the seating area, the drinks menu has been embellished upon, and the wall that people pass by upon entrance has been redone. The characteristic comic-strip wallpaper that has been the background of so many Instagram photos now features hand-drawn doodles by local artist Mr Doodle—a video of him creating the masterpiece was posted up on The Vic’s Facebook page to pique people’s interest about the changes they were enacting.
This year it is already clear, after the first week back, that The Vic’s acclaim has surged. The renovations have made it a popular destination with more room, a cooler design, and a new-and-improved drinks menu, though they have maintained fan-favourite events like Bring Your Own Vessel, Throwback Nights, Tequila Tuesdays, and of course, classic Vic Saturdays. Organisations like Don’t Walk and TEA have held hugely successful nights here in the past, due to the unique combination of retro style and edginess that makes up the aura of The Vic. These different themed club nights organised and promoted by management are a big reason for the success of The Vic. Students enjoy going on nights out to a place that has a purpose—rather than drinking aimlessly at the Union on a normal Saturday night and listening to the same, repetitive tunes before trekking back home, not even feeling the least bit deserving of the Dervish they are cradling in their hands.
Additionally, The Rule remains a steady rival for The Vic. It underwent its own refurbishments back in February 2016—in fact, to make it more similar to The Vic with its pub-club vibe, better lighting, and more space. The Rule also brags cocktail promos on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and free entry, which The Vic has yet to catch onto. The destination for launches by organisations such as House of Horror, as well as regular TEA nights, The Rule’s grungy, grimy club atmosphere is totally one-of-a-kind in St Andrews—making it a hotspot for those who are craving an escape from the vanilla feel of most places in town.
With the sudden rise of The Vic and The Rule, Club 601 and the main bar of the Union face dramatically wavering popularity. Aside from Sinners every once in a while, which has a reputation for being a night to remember (or not, depending on your blood alcohol content), more often than not, the Union is subpar and disappointing. The fact that it is the only place in town where you can purchase a Pablo does not make up for its stale, repetitive, school disco vibes. The weekly Bop has a reputation for being an underwhelming swing-and-miss, despite Club 601’s generous dance floor space, cheap drinks, and convenient, central location in town. So, if the Union practically has it all, why does the Bop remain an event to be forgone by many students come Friday night, in favour of these trendier, more expensive locations?
Unsurprisingly, the answer is that it is because students do not just want a cheap place to get drunk. The quality and the vibe that the venue gives off is important to them, which explains the rising popularity of The Vic and The Rule. These venues try to mix it up, giving off a vintage or grungy vibe, respectively, while the Union keeps it the same, unwilling to experiment with any new characteristics. Perhaps the reason why nights at the Union are never as memorable as nights at The Vic or The Rule is because the Union has a tendency to bore people with its sameness over time. While the nightlife in St Andrews remains laughable in comparison to other universities, one thing that St Andrews students are unwilling to give up on a night out is character.
Rather than attempting in vain to mimic the livelier, club-focused nightlife scene of bigger cities, The Vic and The Rule have opted to improve upon and boast their current functions as not only a club, but a bar and pub kitchen as well. With regular renovations and improvements to make their areas more spacious and accommodating, they have helped shape the defining characteristics of St Andrews nightlife. Rather than strictly clubbing, we tend to be fans of a more social, pub-club atmosphere that gives us the best of both worlds.
What we forget to realise is that there are not many places that allow you to go for a casual drink or two with your friends and end up having one of the wildest nights of your academic career, full of drunken mishaps. Chilled-out pub kitchen or bar by day and bass-pounding club by night, all three of our main attractions—The Vic, The Rule, and The Union, offer us the luxury of letting us choose the type of night we would like to have thanks to their versatility, even if they may not adhere by traditional “nightclub” standards. Love it or hate it, these venues, advertising their own unique vibes, are integral to making up the town image and culture. You could catch a bus to Liquid Envy in Dundee with a few pals if you were in real need of a proper nightclub fix. But there is always the risk that you might be missing the greatest night of your life spent in drunken stupor just a street or two away from you.