Some of Gainesville’s top bars and clubs are sweating this summer, and it’s not just because of the heat.
Business at these local watering holes is lagging thanks to a shrunken student population with no financial aid dollars to spend.
“The amount of people who go out has drastically declined,” said Shimal Patel, owner of Sharab Lounge, located at 109 S. Main St.
Patel had to close Sharab’s doors for the last three weeks in order to rethink his business strategy.
Up until now, Patel has been able to stay alive during the summer by closing down one of the club’s two floors when the lounge isn’t busy. He leaves the hookah bar on the first floor open but closes the second-floor lounge where a live disc jockey plays.
To encourage more students to visit Sharab, Patel plans to change the way drinks are served and music is chosen.
“We also plan on going back to the way we were five years ago,” he said. He plans on doing this by pouring the drinks students request and not just a specific menu that they can choose from.
Patel also plans to have promoter DJs come in and play the music students want to hear on the days they want to hear it.
“I have a resident DJ on Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the Fall and Spring semesters,” he said. “When it is slow, I hire a promoter to pick DJs based on students’ likes and dislikes in music.”
One thing Patel says he will not do, however, is raise the price of cover, drinks or hookah at Sharab. He plans to keep the prices student friendly.
That’s important to students like Chantelle Morgan, a 20-year-old UF public relations junior.
“I haven’t been going out that much because I have been too busy studying,” she said. “It doesn’t help that I don’t get any financial aid during the Summer.”
Students are unable to go out as frequently as they do in Fall and Spring semesters due to the lack of financial aid that is dispersed and the heavy course load that comes with six-to-10-week classes in the Summer semester.
But diminished crowds of students may be a boon to up-and-coming DJs.
Don Bell, a DJ for Mainstream DJs, said that if a new DJ wants to try out the profession, his or her best bet is to speak with local establishments during the summer. With less competition than in the fall or spring, summer offers a better shot at local success for an aspiring or up-and-coming DJ.
Melvin Shackelford, who is part of the Simons management team, said that in the summer, the club is able to try out new DJs and see how the students react to them. He said DJs from Gainesville and from as far away as Orlando contact him with requests to perform at Simons.
Whether they start off in the summer, Bell said the lifespan for DJs depend on how well they know their environment.
[A version of this story ran on page 9 on 6/5/2014 under the headline "Slow summer nights, scarce students sting some local clubs"]