A proposal to create a Washington, D.C. Office of Nightlife to liaison between the mayor’s office and late night businesses is currently under D.C. Council review
Councilmember Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4), joined by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) Oct. 3, proposed the new office which would manage business relations between the Executive Office of the Mayor and D.C. businesses operating between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. A town hall discussion will take place Nov. 8.
The proposed legislation says the office will serve as a point of contact for night businesses to help them connect with District government agencies to address consumer complaints, issues with D.C. agencies and obtaining licenses, permits or approvals.
Todd said the proposed office would encourage business development in neighborhoods like Georgetown.
“As our city is growing by leaps and bounds, neighborhoods that have been devoid of nightlife are suddenly seeing significant development of nightlife in their backyard,” Todd wrote in an email to The Hoya. “However, the growth of nightlife can cause challenges in some communities. For example, in Georgetown, there are safety concerns surrounding the rush of people waiting to catch rides at 2 a.m.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the number of restaurants and bars in Washington has jumped to 2,267 in 2016 from 1,729 in 2006, and the National Restaurant Association reported the food service industry accounted for 63,400 jobs in D.C.in 2017, and is projected to experience 6 percent job growth by 2027.
As nightlife is a rapidly developing sector of D.C.’s economy, the city hopes to encourage further growth with this new office, Todd said.
“With 1,000 people moving into the District every month, and people from throughout the region flocking here for our nightlife, on top of tourists, demand is booming, and this office will help manage the inevitable growth in supply,” Todd said. “An added benefit of the office is that it would help create a long-term economic development vision surrounding nightlife – something that the District is currently lacking.”
Currently, businesses have to contact city agencies during daytime business hours to resolve challenges.
The D.C. Office of Nightlife would be open at night to resolve issues during the business hours of clubs, restaurants and creative industries.
“Currently, businesses need to call specific agencies for specific problem,” Todd said. “It is fragmented and difficult to navigate, especially for small business owners after-hours. Having a centralized point of contact, open at the appropriate hours, would be very helpful for these business owners, as well as neighbors and community leaders.”
Bill McLeod, the executive director of Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets nonprofit, explained the D.C. Office of Nightlife’s potential to ease communication between nightlife businesses and the mayor’s office would simplify problem resolution.
“There should not be a need for the public to file a complaint the next business day. And businesses should be able to deal with any issues almost immediately,” McLeod wrote in an email to The Hoya.
While the proposed office will work to improve communication between the public and the Executive Office of the Mayor, it will not affect the regulation of nightlife.
“This bill does not entail any new regulations,” Todd wrote. “It simply creates an office that serves as an intermediary and liaison between the various stakeholders.”
The proposed legislation would also add a Commission of Nightlife to advise the D.C. director. The commission will be appointed by the mayor.
The proposed Office of Nightlife is not unique to D.C. In European cities such as London, Paris and Zurich, a night mayor or night czar facilitates relations between the government and nightlife businesses. However, the concept is relatively new to the United States. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio approved an Office of Nightlife Sept. 19.
Todd referenced New York’s office in an interview on the Kojo Nnamdi Show Nov. 1.
“New York City just appointed an Office of Nightlife Director this year,” Todd said in the interview. “And I think that we’ll start to see this all over the country, and, frankly, all over the world, especially in big cities like Washington, D.C.”