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Gen Z is drinking less. That's bad news for concert venues that depend on alcohol sales for profits.

Brad Davis   

Gen Z is drinking less. That's bad news for concert venues that depend on alcohol sales for profits.
  • Gen Z'ers say they drink less than other generations. Only 60% told a Gallup Poll that they drink.
  • That's worrying concert venues that depend on alcohol sales for their profits, Billboard reported.

Used to be, you could go to a concert and always see crowds of inebriated people enjoying the show.

You still can. It's just that fewer young people — especially Gen Z'ers of drinking age — will be throwing 'em back. That might be good from a health standpoint, but it's got concert venue owners and show promoters worried, a new story in Billboard reports.

That's because alcohol sales help keep the lights on at clubs around the country. After all, profit margins on booze can reach 80%, according to point-of-sale operator Toast. That means if you're buying a $10 drink, $8 is likely going right into the venue's pocket.

If fewer people are buying those drinks, there's less money going to the venue. And many smaller venues don't have a lot of other things — think: food, merchandise, basketball games — to easily make up for the loss, some operators say.

"Bar sales are important for every music venue, but especially for smaller ones since there aren't as many revenue sources compared to the large arenas," Evan Johnson, a talent buyer for Daydream State in Seattle, told Billboard. Daydream owns several venues in the city.

Younger people told Gallup in a recent survey that they're less likely to drink than their older peers: Only 6o% of people 18 to 34 said they drank alcohol, compared to 70% of people 35 to 54. The survey, from 2021, also said people of all ages are drinking less, tipping back an average of 3.6 drinks a week vs. 4 in 2019 — and 5.1 in 2003.

David Slutes, who runs a venue called Club Congress in Tuscon, Arizona, said that he'd noticed alcohol sales had dropped up to 25% when booking shows for a Gen Z-focused crowd.

Younger people are drinking less, survey says

GenderYes, drink alcohol
18 to 3460%
35 to 5470%
55 and older52%

Source: Gallup survey, published August 2021

That tracks with what data is showing globally, too: The UK government is taking in less tax revenue from falling alcohol and cigarette sales among Gen Z. More young people are abstaining completely from alcohol. And a number of studies in recent years have shown the generation avoiding alcohol, sex — and even driving.

Dayna Frank, president and CEO at Minneapolis's First Avenue — famous for being Prince's home base — told Billboard that something's going to have to change. Most of a concert's ticket price goes to the band, she said. "So, really, what [venues] subsist on is beverages. That's not going to be a sustainable revenue stream."

Some venues told the magazine they're experimenting with renting out their facilities for more private events to make up for lost revenue. And to get in on the teetotal trend, they're offering kombucha, mocktails, and CBD-infused libations.

Booze-free cocktails have indeed been gaining traction among younger drinkers, with US sales jumping nearly 21% from August 2021 to August 2022, according to Nielsen data.

"There was a time when a few beers, shots, or cocktails were staple of social gatherings, but in recent years, non-alcoholic beverage trends have been rising," Nielsen analysts said.

Concert venue owners are apparently taking note.

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