Consistency is key to a good night out

By Lawrence Bailey

Consistency is one word that will never be used to describe Calgary’s nightlife and bar scene. Pongo is no more, what is now known as NYLA seems to change names, themes and ownership on a biannual basis, and just when something gets good, it changes owners and all is lost (see Lounge, Lucky).

However, there are exceptions to every rule, and a perfect night out in Calgary is contingent on seeking it out.

I am a man about town. I don’t make this claim out of ego or with an "I-know-better-than-you" attitude. No, I say it because it’s true–in every good and bad way possible. I am a shamelessly social creature. I also love a good drink and a great time. Coupled with a penchant for procrastination and a shameless devaluation of sleep, this leads me to be out more than I’m in, and sees me navigating the ever-changing waters of Calgary’s nightlife often, some might say too often.

Regardless of the effects of this reckless lifestyle on my health, it results in a tremendous benefit for you, the Gauntlet reader. You see, my full speed lifestyle puts me in a great position to comment on how to get the most out of a night out in the biggest small town in the world.

The key? Find something that works and be sure it will stick around. Find something consistent. All too often Calgary will let you down by allowing a bar and its clientele to mature, to find a niche, just before it changes owners or simply closes down.

A prime example of this is the train wreck that is Lucky Lounge. Once a relaxing, welcoming place to begin a rowdy evening or wind a calm one down, it is now burdened by muscle-bound bartenders and the always classy beer tub girls. Lounge, indeed. Damn you Calgary Stampede and your ten days of filthy lucre.

Many have had their hearts broken by this city and its inability to support comfortable establishments, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: The trick is to fall in love with some of our fair city’s mainstays. I have been fortunate enough to do just that and I still sport a smile on my face every Thursday night.

Allow me to explain.

Upon turning 18, I set out to discover my "scene." Time was spent in many-a-place.

The Republik was always top notch, with 25 cent highballs, the one and only Walter supplying stellar tunes, and a "get drunk or go home" attitude. Alas, the Republik is no more and Tequila is no replacement.

There was also the Warehouse. Yes, it’s still in business, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a night that so effortlessly blends industrial and ’80s pop like it once did. The building stands, the times have changed, it’s not the same anymore.

It was truly heart breaking. Time and time again, a bar would outgrow me or I would outgrow it. Except the Ship, of course.

The Ship and Anchor is a bastion of consistency, a hallmark of success and stability amidst a sea of failure and change. Since it opened in the 1980s, it has always been "the place." The place to meet old friends, the place to make new ones, the place for a peaceful pint or two, the place for a rowdy pint or twenty (ohh, ill-fated 19th birthday). No matter what pop culture dictates, the Ship stands tall.

Obviously then, all good nights must begin at the Ship. Why? Because no matter where your night takes you, you know what to expect at the Ship. It always gets things kicked off the way they should be and it never wavers, falters or fails.

But what next? Where should one go if Calgary is such a sea of nightclub volatility and heartache? Where else but the grandfather of them all, the one place that has seen them come and go, now enjoying its fourth decade in Calgary–the Night Gallery.

The Gallery has withstood the test of time by offering anything and everything to anyone and everyone, and it has become a constant in the life of this young scenester. With nights built around raggae, funk, rock, hip hop, house, country, metal, even hot dogs, the Gallery has it all, and is the perfect destination for a post-Ship excursion. Hell, my Thursday nights for the last three or four years find me hitting the Ship then the Gallery more often than not. And why not? It’s a damn near perfect time every single week.

The Ship-Gallery combo is one that is unrivaled in Calgary, one that will never be rivaled. It has stood the test of time and it continues to prosper. It offers the one thing that nothing else in this city can: consistency. It was an epic night out ten years ago and it will be an epic night out ten years from now.

So rather than have your heart broken by a painfully inconsistent scene, find your perfect combination. For me it’s the Ship-Gallery experience. For many others on campus it’s a couple hours of boozing in Rez followed by a trek to the Den (a very honourable mention to that option).

No matter what it is, find something that works for you every time , because God knows you’ll need to let loose sometimes and there’s nothing worse than a bad night out.

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