If your ideal Friday night involves less dancing on tables and flirting with hotties at the club and more eating takeout and drinking wine on the couch, you’re far from alone. In fact, you’re part of the growing lifestyle trend that is staying in. A new survey from market research firm Mintel says that 28% of “young millennials” (or people aged 24-31) prefer drinking at home. Meanwhile, a whopping 55% of Americans of all ages feel similarly. Sorry, barflies and clubrats, you’re officially in the minority. (I’m sure it has nothing to do with those super flattering nicknames.)
It’s not hard to imagine a litany of reasons why this might be. For starters, 74% of participants in the study cited the desire to imbibe in a relaxing environment — as opposed to a sweaty, crowded one where they’re constantly being jostled, spilled on, and fending off unwanted advances — as a key reason to stay home. Sixty-nine percent say the need or desire to save money is a major factor, while 38% believe staying out of bars and clubs means it’s easier for them to control their alcohol intake.
While Caleb Bryant, a senior foodservice analyst at Mintel and the person in charge of compiling the report, says the firm doesn’t have specific data on how significant a role online dating has played in the apparent pullback from bars and clubs, most of the millennials we spoke to cited it as a key reason. Call it the Netflix-and-Chill factor, if you will.
“It's the whole dating idea of Netflix and like, I'm going to sit on my couch, watch all of the things that I could possibly watch and drink all my wine from Trader Joe's. Why would I leave my house? I can invite somebody over to hang out with me,” Jenifer Golden, a self-proclaimed “older millennial” and one half of the duo behind the podcast It’s Complicated and the Instagram account @TwoDrunkGirls, tells Refinery29.
And while millennials are sometimes chastised for spending our cash on frivolities like avocado toast (or, I guess, living rooms), saving money was probably the number one reason to stay in among those we informally surveyed. After all, no matter how dive-y the dive bar, it’s hard to compete with that Two Buck Chuck. On the other hand, Mintel’s report notes that while people may be going out less, they’re often willing to spend more on fancier drinks when they do decide to leave the house. Because if you’re gonna get off the couch, put on an non-pajama outfit, and speak to other humans, why not pop bottles, right?
“Most of the growth in the spirit categories is happening with some more expensive spirit varieties,” Bryant tells Refinery29. “Also, you know, millennials are getting older, so they have more disposable income, and as consumers, they get bolder. They generally drink less alcohol [than other generations] but because they're drinking less, they still want to have that unique experience and so they're going to get a more expensive drink.”
Peter Sim, a 30-year-old who lives in New York and works in finance, is one of the only people I could find who personally disagrees with the conclusions of the survey. “Amongst millennials, especially in the city, you have to limit how much you’re spending,” he concedes to Refinery29. “But, on the flip side, as rent goes up, you end up living in much smaller spaces, and for me, it’s crucial to leave my apartment and to interact with society and enjoy everything that the city has to offer. I still enjoy meeting strangers.”
But it’s important to clarify what, exactly, we mean by “going out.” The Mintel study seems to classify “out” as any public space where alcohol is served, like a bar, nightclub, music venue, or restaurant. And while spending time in those kinds of places may be on the decline, what’s simultaneously on the rise is entertaining at home. The perfect middle ground between paying a $20 entry fee to yell into your friend’s ear all night and staring into the abyss of your computer screen until you pass out alone, entertaining at home combines the drinking and socialization of the former with the comfort and cost efficiency of the latter. If our generation is Goldilocks — and, hey, maybe we are — hanging out at a friend’s apartment making blender drinks and eating expensive cheese over a rousing game of Apples to Apples is the “just right” social porridge we crave.
This makes sense for a notoriously DIY-loving group with unlimited access to not only on-demand dating and entertainment, but also recipes, food hacks, and party inspo. “We are all about, you know, creating our own everything today. So that means creating our own experiences, creating our own cocktails,” Chelsea Krost, a life coach, entrepreneur, and millennial marketing strategist, tells Refinery29. “We are taking advantage of all the content that we have on social media and all of the great food and great influencers out there sharing recipes and trying to do them ourselves.”
Sim, however, makes the valid point that this kind of cozy in-home partying really only works with people you know reasonably well. With co-workers, casual acquaintances, or potential romantic interests, it doesn’t always feel comfortable to invite them into your space, or to go into theirs. “Especially amongst co-workers where maybe you’re not totally comfortable going to each other’s places, happy hour serves a key function in developing those relationships,” he says.
Haters, however, will say it’s laziness. Bryant notes that the biggest misconception he’s observed since the results of the survey were released earlier this month is people assuming the whole thing can be couched right alongside pervasive yet largely made-up concepts like millennial entitlement and rampant unprofessionalism. Never mind the fact that the trend seems to be a reality within other demographics, too.
Ironically, anti-going-out culture, even when it’s just as boozy and debaucherous as going-out culture, has spawned a smugness often perpetuated via the very same social media platforms recently used to showcase of impossibly glam nights on the town. If you’ve ever heard someone whose social calendar bears zero resemblance to that of an octogenarian shrug off their weekend plans and say something like, “oh, haha, I love staying in, I’m such a grandma,” then you probably know what I’m talking about. All of a sudden, not going out is cool. Or, at least, it’s not uncool.
“Every generation, I don't really care what age bracket, there's always going to be a sliding scale of people: people that need to be out to, you know, feel significant, people who crave that type of attention,” says Krost. “And then there's going to be the people that are so secure with themselves and so secure in just being in pajamas and watching Netflix.”
Whether we’ve tapped into a weird well of pajama-clad self-confidence that our predecessors didn’t achieve until later in life, or the dance floor-bound extroverts among us are just suddenly pretending to be cool with Monopoly night isn’t for certain. What is clear, though, is that the line outside that club you’re always too scared to attempt to get into may have just gotten a lot shorter. Not that you’d even want to go or anything.