First-year students were part of the target audience for Barbie night at Virtue this week.
A Barbie-themed event, organized by student promotional group SevenM Events took place at Virtue Nightclub in downtown Kingston on Sept. 27. Posters advertising the event were placed inside Queen’s McNeill House residence and at the on-campus eatery Location 21, located in David C. Smith House.
According to Residence Society (ResSoc) President Nathan Beckner-Stetson, outside organizations should generally get permission from Residence Life before posters are placed within a first-year residence.
The Journal was unable to verify if posters for the event existed within locked areas of any residences, and only found posters in McNeill House.
The posters included a QR code which allowed students to purchase an alcoholic drink and ticket for $15. The online tickets sold out hours before the event, according to Instagram stories published by Virtue on Wednesday.
The online Eventbrite ticket for Barbie night described it as a 19+ event with ID at the door. Those attending could win bottles of alcohol such as an Absolut Vodka before and during the event through a giveaway on SevenM’s Instagram page.
“Virtue Nightclub is a 19+ venue. We use similar tools as our competitors to guarantee underage patrons don’t enter our location,” Virtue General Manager Tim McCargar said in a statement to The Journal.
On the first day of fall term last year, 90.1 per cent of first year students were 18 years old or younger, according to the Queen’s 2022-2023 Enrolment Report. SevenM events didn’t respond to The Journal’s efforts to contact them.
“Virtue Nightclub was contacted early September by a private, student-run promotional organization interested in running an event,” McCargar said.
SevenM Events currently has three posts on their Instagram page, all about the Barbie event at Virtue. According to McCargar, all advertising for the event was done by SevenM events except for the promotional Instagram stories Virtue posted.
McCargar stated that in addition to standard government-issued IDs, Virtue verifies identity with student IDs, credit cards, and other forms of identification.
Across the street, Trinity Social Owner John Saris knows underage patrons will occasionally slip through despite best efforts. For Saris, serving underage students isn’t only risky for Trinity’s liquor license, but bad for business.
“Nobody wants to come back and party for three years in the bar they partied in underage as frosh, so that’s an important business model,” Saris said.
Most fake IDs are real IDs belonging to someone else, according to Saris. There’s craft in identifying who owns their ID and who is masquerading as an older student. Staff at Trinity Social are trained before working, and there’s always a manager at the door supervising.
“The biggest problem is making sure that the person on the ID is the person in front of you,” Saris said.
Stages Nightclub and the Ale House & Canteen declined The Journal’s request to comment on their ID practices.
Although he won’t serve them, Saris understands first-year students need spaces to socialize. Tapping into the alcohol-free event market has been a discussion Saris is having with his partners.
“I think it’s a huge market in any university town for any social venue for people that are underage,” Saris said.
Checking IDs is only one part of it. Saris has worked to make Trinity Social an environment third- and fourth-year students are attracted to, from a respectful line up outside to professional staff.
“I think, in the case of other venues, they’re doing the exact opposite, or they’re providing an atmosphere [underage students] do want. They’re actively advertising, but they’re also just creating their own problem,” Saris said.
Wednesday night, Trinity was closed, but according to a since-deleted Instagram highlights reel on Virtue’s Instagram, Barbie night attracted a full house.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Tim McCargar’s name. Incorrect information appeared in the Sept. 29 issue of The Queen’s Journal.
The Journal regrets the error
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