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Gen Z Consumes Less Alcohol, Prefers More Cannabis and Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Gen Z Consumes Less Alcohol, Prefers More Cannabis and Non-Alcoholic Beverages

The trend’s your friend: In the US, cannabis consumption lounges are poised to benefit from Gen Z consumers who are drinking less alcohol in what has been described as a generational cultural shift.

High Times

23 April 2024 at 06:00:00

This report from High Times published on 22 Aprl 2024.

Entertainment hosts in Las Vegas are noticing a significant decrease in Gen Z (those born between 1997-2012) drinking alcohol. Paired with an overall increase in cannabis use by younger consumers, this shift could lead to great success for consumption lounges.

Las Vegas-based promoter of Pulsar Presents, Patrick Trout, has 20 years of experience promoting local music. Trout recently spoke with Las Vegas Weekly about the trend of Gen Z drinking less alcohol. “It’s something I’ve observed since the shutdown ended, but especially in the last year,” Trout said. “I’ve seen a dramatic increase in people not drinking at shows or drinking non-alcoholic stuff, but then simultaneously also wanting to smoke more. We are really seeing a generational, cultural shift.”

Trout’s observation is also reflected in a 2023 Billboard article, which cited a shift in alcohol consumption when businesses reopened after the pandemic. One Tucson, Arizona-based club manager noted that especially with shows that catered to Gen Z, alcohol sales dropped by 25%. Some researchers believe that this is partially because people pre-game, or start drinking alcohol prior to their arrival at a bar or entertainment venue, which is also a way to save money on a night out. Venue owners have attempted to switch their strategies to appeal to Gen Z attendees, such as expanding their non-alcohol options. In 2019, Global Market projected that the non-alcoholic industry could reach a value of $30 billion by next year.

Psychiatrist Akhil Anand, MD, told Cleveland Clinic that an increase in mental health awareness deters Gen Z from imbibing. “Alcohol is a depressant and never the answer to a bad day,” Anand said. “Gen Z seems to understand that concept and they’ve moved in a different direction.”

A New Frontier Data report from 2022 shows that 69% of people between 18-24 prefer cannabis over alcohol, while the same preference is seen with 70% of those 25-34, 68% of 35-44 year olds, 55% of people 45-54, 52% of 55-64, and 44% of those 65-74.

Christopher LaPorte, Vegas-based manager of Reset, a cannabis hospitality group, told Las Vegas Weekly that cannabis is becoming highly preferred over alcohol. “Everyone has the pot brownie story that was horrible. But everyone also has a lot more of ‘Oh my god, that one night with tequila,’” said LaPorte. “People are more educated now because we are out of the closet. More people know about cannabis. More cool people are very open about their cannabis-smoking habits.”

Nevada’s first consumption lounge, Smoke and Mirrors, which is owned by Thrive Cannabis, opened in late February. LaPorte helped design the consumption lounge, which made him think of listening cafes in Japan and New York, some of which only offer non-alcoholic drink menus. 

“There was this buzz, I would say three years ago, about this new culture of non-alcoholic spirits, and we saw that there were bars actually dedicated to that. It wasn’t just an Alcoholics Anonymous kind of center. We [thought] this might be something,” said LaPorte. “We saw a lot of products like Lyre’s and Seedlip … they were starting to percolate. And, again, it was like, how can we tie this into a cannabis lounge?’”

That thought culminated into Smoke and Mirrors’ non-alcoholic, THC-infused drinks, which LaPorte described as a way to “attract another market into the cannabis space.”

Las Vegas Weekly was given a tour of Planet 13’s new cannabis lounge, led by Frankie Anobile, who has had an extended career as a DJ and developing Vegas nightlife entertainment, but is now Planet 13’s entertainment director. While he explained that he doesn’t expect “bong service” to replace “bottle service,” he stated that offering both services is the best way to go.

Planet 13’s consumption lounge, Dazed!, opened on April 5, but the company is also planning on building a three-story, 60,000 square-foot nightclub that only serves alcohol sometime in 2025.

While Nevada state law prevents cannabis businesses from selling alcohol, and vice versa, Planet 13’s nightclub plan would allow club goers to walk next door to the club after the consumption lounge closes. “You can stay all night drinking for hours; you can’t stay all night smoking. It’s a totally different culture, from what they want musically to what their stay time is,” said Anobile. “A lot of these people don’t usually like to leave their house. They’re not the ones who want to spend an hour getting ready to go out there and be seen like they’re doing an Instagram post.”

Trout added that he’s excited to see how consumption lounges will alter the music scene. “One thing I’m really interested to see with the pot lounges that decide to utilize live music is seeing what the spread is, what genres they go after,” Trout said. “There’s some sub genres of metal like doom and stoner rock and desert rock where I think it would absolutely appeal to them to have a place like that where you can smoke and watch music.”

According to the Nevada Independent, there are 38 more cannabis consumption lounge license holders currently working on their businesses at various stages

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