OPINION - No wonder Gen Z don't want to drink if cheap venues like Revolution are under threat


Let’s time travel. 2009, Sheffield, the university years. Welcome to Vodka Revs — a branch of Revolution Bars — when, each time the bartender turns to the till, I ease a martini glass from the overhead rack and slide it down an arm of my coat. I stop after seven. A success until it’s time to leave, when outside, as I throw my hands up in triumph, everything comes crashing, shattering down. The bouncers shout; I run.

Does everyone over 18 and under 40 have a memory like this? Could anyone still have a night like that? I think about that crystal puddle surprisingly often: 15 years later, it crosses my mind every time I order a martini. At the time, Revolution was worth about £60 million, and drinks were a fiver when they were from the top shelf. It was a haven.

So this week’s news, of Revolution Bars in trouble, gave me pause. After failing to publish its half-year results last week, on Tuesday the chain announced it had suspended its shares. It is on the hunt for a rescue plan — which could mean a new investor, a sale, or the closure of around a quarter of its roughly 70 sites across the country. There were similar talks of shut-downs in January, and shares have dropped just shy of 70 per cent in the past six months. The group lost £22.2 million in the year to the end of June 2023.

The idea that 18-year-olds have no interest in a night out is improbable — more plausible is the prohibitive cost

A shame. Revs meant something, even at uni, when my crowd already felt we were too ancient for it (we’d cut our teeth under-age, and abhorred the “old men” on the dance floor, daring to be 25, 26).

In some quarters, the blame has been put at the feet of the apparently pious young. Reports say they don’t drink, and love an early night. It seems unlikely. Humans have drunk for nearly 10,000 years, and we’re not into it on our own. Famously, Australia has a “drunken parrot season”, while dolphins are said to knock about with pufferfish to get high. Getting out of one’s box might be said to not just be normal but natural.

The idea that today’s 18-year-olds simply have no interest in a big night out isn’t impossible, but it is improbable. More plausible is that cost is proving prohibitive. Whether in Leeds or Leadenhall, even the two-for-one cocktails at Revs come in at £11.75, while anyone ordering for just themselves is looking at £10.50 a round. A decade ago, it would have been a fortune. But it would do, given I remember pound-a-pint nights, and bars that did all-you-can-drink for £10. By comparison, Revs seemed upmarket.

Undoubtedly, those promotions were unhealthy, and promoted an unhealthy culture. But, in offering a space we could afford, those bars gave us somewhere to acclimatise — to get used to each other. To dance and be dumb. To accept terrible DJs.

It’s possible Revs has priced itself out of its market. But should the chain go under, something will have been lost. The young need somewhere to drink cheaply, and it isn’t as if there are competitors queuing up. Wetherspoons might still do an excellent job — do you know anywhere else in zone one shifting £2.29 pints? — but Revs offered the next step, the interim bar before the club, or sometimes the club itself (if memory serves, the chain pioneered the iMac DJ, with the ready-made playlist). Going to Revs meant staying too late, the unnecessary one more. As such, there is a kind of poetic irony to somewhere built for that dragging out its goodbye. But if it folds, something will be lost, especially in a city where hotel are charging £26 for a Cosmo. Long live the cheap bar; they made us.


Kanye, still uncancelled

Is cancelling over? Yesterday, another lawsuit was filed against Kanye West, in which a former Yeezy and Donda Academy employee claimed West wished to install a jail at his school to “cage” students. Apparently, West also threatened to punch said employee and gave preferential treatment to white employees. Shocking, no? The rapper also was allegedly sexually inappropriate, made anti-LGBTQ+ remarks, and compared himself to Hitler. Weirdest of all? The complainant, Trevor Phillips, says Ye made his team watch The Batman — muted. West has yet to respond to the claims. While new, none of this is especially shocking, given Ye once tweeted “I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE [sic]”. But last month, his collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign, Vultures 1, hit No 1 on the US Billboard 200 album chart and No 2 on the British charts. So will the new accusations make a difference? Vultures 2 is expected any day. My bet? Another number one. Shameful.

David Ellis is the Evening Standard’s Going Out Editor