By Lidia Abraha
On the surface, it looks like they are being paid to drink and party, but look closer and you’ll find Ryerson students capitalizing on the diverse network of Toronto’s nightlife. From club promotion to bottle service, students are building valuable connections in the city’s bars and clubs.
The nightclub scene is a known part of Toronto. Every weekend, King St. W. and other Toronto clubbing districts are lined with people going to different dance clubs, parties and events.
Although there are lots of jobs for students in the nightlife industry, the most popular one is club promotion. This commission-based job pays based on the amount of people you can get on your guest list. The more people on the list, the more money you make. Most promoters will post across social media that their guest list is open. Once people are on the guest list, club-goers have a chance to avoid paying the $20 cover and can sometimes, if they’re really lucky, hang out at bottle-filled booths.
Conrad Calabrese, a fourth-year Marketing major, has been promoting clubs for over two years. Calabrese said the connections he’s made have given wings to his personal business projects.
“Every week, you’re meeting a new face, and potentially a new person to work with,” he said. “There are other promoters that have clothing brands, marketing companies, video graphics, and [this] allows them to meet enough people to sustain their business, and help them gain a base of potential clients or customers.”
“It’s good as a part-time job, you probably make the most amount of money working here than any regular serving job. But it’s a lot more demanding and a lot more stressful”
Calabrese co-runs a company with his brother called UNCRWND Events, where they host local underground hip-hop concerts. They have hosted events with artists like French Montana, Tory Lanez and Baka Not Nice.
Through successfully creating relationships with guests, being a long-time promoter has given Calabrese venue options for after-parties and other music events. Consequently, the clubs are also marketing and promoting his events, which gives the extra “push” he needs to have a great turnout.
For Calabrese, promoting was a way to make money for his personal business. This way, he can make enough money to live in Toronto by working just two days a week, which gives enough time to pursue independent business projects.
Fiona Guest*, a third-year business management student, has been working as a bottle service girl for almost six months at Maison Mercer, on Mercer and John streets in the Entertainment District. Her job is to sell bottles of alcohol and bring them to the booth, which is not as easy as it seems.
“It’s good as a part-time job, you probably make the most amount of money working here than any regular serving job. But it’s a lot more demanding and a lot more stressful,” said Guest.
Guest said that as a woman working around alcohol, you sometimes have to deal with harassment, like groping. She said the nights can also be hectic because you’re expected to work in crowded venues and make sure everyone is happy.
As a bottle service girl, Guest makes tips off of the bottles sold at a booth, which can range from $30 to $900 per night.
However, it’s not just business students that work in the nightlife industry; there are other students who find their careers intersecting with Toronto clubs.
“You have to remember your vision, and what you want in life. Remember that partying is great, but it’s temporary”
Akshita Tandon is a third-year fashion design student who works as a VIP host at Door Three on King and Bathurst streets in the Fashion District. Her job is to book booths and make sure all of the guests paying for the booth are having a good time. Her work has helped her grow a network of models, designers and artists who have a mark in the fashion industry.
Tandon said she’s been connected with Jeff Rustia, the founder of Toronto Men’s Fashion Week, through her nightlife connections. She’s also been able to meet famous musicians such as Jay Sean, Karl Wolf and Roy Woods.
As exciting as it sounds to work in the nightlife industry, it is a very slippery slope according to Tandon. Her program makes it especially difficult for the nightlife experience not to interfere with her studies.
“Sometimes you do get off track,” said Tandon. “I end up going out like six times a week. At the end of the day, I know what I need to do. You just have to stay focused … You have to remember your vision, and what you want in life. Remember that partying is great, but it’s temporary.”
Toronto students have an advantage to meeting professionals in the entertainment industry through the lively nightlife of the city. Professionals in music or fashion are often big players in this scene, and Ryerson students are able to capitalize off that. Whether it’s making extra money on the side, funding business projects, or making strong connections, there are long-term benefits to this work and a community at Ryerson participating in it.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.