Going out to a nightclub for the first time can be intimidating. What should one expect, wear, or bring?
Vancouver DJ Koji Aiken has been spinning at clubs and parties in Vancouver for around five years. He's well-versed in the city's nightlife and even throws his own secret raves and underground parties through his event company Kumo.
V.I.A. tapped the DJ for a few must-know tips and secret tricks for a fun and safe night out in Vancouver, especially for those going out for the first time.
Getting ready for a night out
What to wear
Vancouver leans towards a more relaxed and casual style when it comes to clubbing attire, says Aiken.
Unless the club is hosting a themed night, he suggests wearing something comfortable and, for those wanting to dress up, something that makes you feel empowered.
"Typical club attire would be [heels and] a skirt for women and then for guys something a little bit more casual," says the DJ. "There's no expectations or anything."
Foremost, he recommends wearing an outfit that represents the individual, adding that meeting new people and making friends can be easier by expressing personal style.
What to bring
Though necessities like one's wallet, phone, and keys can be a no-brainer, Aiken suggests bringing a few more items to make the night more enjoyable.
His first recommendation is to bring earplugs. "Half an hour in an average club is enough to cause exterior [hearing] damage," he says, having done some research on the topic.
For women, Aiken says his girlfriend suggests bringing makeup for touch-ups, baby wipes, and toilet paper (in case some stalls at nightclubs don't have any).
How long you should expect to wait
Waiting in line is part of the nightclub experience. In fact, Vancouver's nightlife is so notorious for line-ups that one local even started an Instagram account to track which club is worth waiting to get into.
Nightclubs typically open around 10 p.m. and get busier between 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Aiken suggests arriving around 10:30 p.m.; not too early, but well ahead of the crowd.
How much you should expect to pay
The average cover to get into a nightclub is between $10 and $20, unless you get on the guest list, which means a discount or free entry, says Aiken. Getting in touch with one of the nightclub's promoters or venue managers is one way to get on the club's guest list.
A coat check is available at most nightclubs and will cost around $2 to 5.
When it comes to drinks, Aiken says to expect to pay $8 to 12 per drink on average, with shots sliding toward the lower end of the scale at $7 to 8 per shot.
He adds that the average person usually orders around two and a half drinks at the club, so you can prepare to pay around $25 and 30 just for drinks.
At the club
What drinks do people usually get at a club?
"A lot of people don't usually get cocktails at the club. They get drinks like [vodka cranberry] and highballs," notes Aiken.
Rounds are also very common at nightclubs.
Aiken's drinking method when going out with friends is to have each person pay for a round. "If there are five people then each person will take a turn to buy five drinks for everyone on the team," he explains.
He mentions a trick to get through the club's busy bar: "A great way to get a bartender's attention is to tip them. If you tip them well the first time they'll know who you are and then give you priority service."
Party in a group
"It's always better to have a couple of eyes on you rather than trying to keep eyes on yourself," says the DJ. "The bigger the group, the safer you are."
This can also mean making new friends while at the club. "Talk to people who you think would be a good person to connect with," he encourages. " There are lots of people in the club and everyone's going to have fun and make friends."
Staying safe at the club
"It's really, really important to identify a staff member that you can go to, whether it's a bartender or a security person or one of the event organizers," the DJ recommends.
Having a point of contact is helpful in case of an emergency or an uncomfortable situation, such as an overly intoxicated person overstepping boundaries - in which case you can ask security to kick the person out.
"If they're doing it to you, they're probably doing it to some other people as well," says Aiken of that kind of club patron.
If you feel unsafe, nightclubs also often have a code word to signify needing help.
The most well-known code word is an angel shot. "If you go to the bartender and ask for an angel shot, that's essentially a call for help or a secret code for help," explains Aiken.
Though the angel shot is the most common way to call for help, the code word can vary at each nightclub so it's best to ask about it in advance.
Another piece of advice is to "never, never, ever leave your drink on the table or leave your drink somewhere," Aiken warns.
Leaving a drink exposed is an easy way to get "roofied" or drugged. If you must leave your drink, have someone watch over it.
Where to go for your first night out in Vancouver
Aiken recommends Fortune Sound Club, which plays rap and hip-hop music, as the place to go for a first-time clubbing experience and to help people get a feel for Vancouver nightlife.
Celebrities and Levels nightclubs are a few of his other picks, along with Enso and Harbour event centres which are more showrooms than nightclubs.
Kumo also throws unique events, such as last year's outdoor foam party and theatre rave.
Aiken encourages those wanting to go out to check local nightclubs' social media to see what music and theme they will be organizing.
But as an overall tip, he says to simply not "be a dick in the club."
"Nobody likes to get harassed on the dance floor. Everyone's there to have a good time. We're already so stressed as human beings every day. The last thing we want to deal with in our free time is annoying people," he says lightheartedly.