Free drinks, young models a volatile mix at nightclub
By the time the third glass hits the floor with a crash it's pretty clear that the group of girls standing at the far side of the room are starting to enjoy themselves.
When you're a young model drinking for free at Dragon-i in Central, one of Hong Kong's trendiest bars, it's understandable. It would be stupid to turn down a night of free drinks in such a club - that is, so long as you're old enough to drink there.
Dragon-i regularly uses young models to promote the club, providing them with free drinks all night to help give out a cool vibe, but it's also a way to keep customers drinking. You're more likely to have another beer if there's a beautiful young woman to talk to. The question is: exactly how young are the women?
'Yes, some of the girls who come here aren't 18, but it's not that big a deal,' one young model from Britain said.
'Many of us started modelling when we were 14 or 15 years old so it's not like we haven't experienced coming to nightclubs before and being involved in nights like these. We really don't get paid a lot of money modelling here, so you have to make the most of it when you can.'
Another model agreed, saying: 'Not all the girls who come here are 18 yet, but it doesn't make any difference. Me and my friends started drinking before then anyway. So long as you're not getting into trouble, what's the problem?'
None of the girls wished to be named for obvious reasons.
Dragon-i's managing director, Jackson Ng, denied that any underage drinking was happening and said they had a system in place to stop this from occurring.
'I don't know anything about this. We try and check all their Hong Kong IDs, as obviously we're always worried about letting in under-age drinkers,' he said. 'They must be legal before they can enter the club.
'There are several modelling agencies that we work with and we basically have these models here most nights. We take every precaution we can to prevent under-age drinking.'
Police said they regularly conduct checks of liquor-licensed premises to ensure that no liquor is sold to underage persons.
'Where any under-age persons are found consuming liquor on any licensed premises, steps will be taken to ensure that their well-being and interests are looked after, and the relevant offenders brought to justice,' a police spokesman said.
Glamorous though it sounds to get free alcohol in a trendy nightclub, Maria, 20, from Estonia told a cautionary tale.
A few weeks before a guy bought her a bottle of champagne in Dragon-i and she gladly accepted it. The models get free drinks but also get it bought for them - a bottle of champagne is normally the libation of choice.
However the customer started getting a little too friendly for Maria's liking. She had experienced this kind of thing before and just finished her glass of champagne, thanked the guy in question and moved away.
Not that everyone could handle this kind of situation as smoothly as that. Pointing over at the table full of young models nearby, Maria just shook her head.
'Most of them aren't very smart,' she said. 'We're here to have a good time but you have to be careful. It's a two-way street. We get free drinks from the club, but the club uses us to attract customers here and to get them to stay longer.
'Of course some guys are going to buy you a drink and that's great, but some girls are a bit naive and think that's all they want to do. If you're in a nightclub and a guy is buying you drinks it's not just to pass the time.'
Right on cue another glass hits the floor. Maria shrugs and smiles.
Although only 20 years old, the Estonian acted like she was much older. After leaving Estonia at 15, she modelled mostly in Europe before arriving in China last year. Her last modelling contract was in Guangzhou.
'Guangzhou was a lot more dangerous than Hong Kong,' she said. 'Guys don't take no for an answer as quickly in Guangzhou.'
Maria explained that the majority of models working in Hong Kong came from either Eastern Europe or South America.
Fliers had been left with her modelling agency - she declined to say which one - advertising Dragon-i's search for models, and she enjoys her nights spent there.
'Who would turn down a free night out at one of the best clubs in Hong Kong?' she asked.