The Night Mayor is the informal name for a city official charged with taking care of issues that arise in a city after dark. A growing number of major metropolitan areas in the United States have hired so-called night mayors in recent years. Some smaller cities also have hired night mayors, especially cities with a relatively large population of young people.
Night mayor is not a formal title; the actual title of such an official varies from city to city. In Washington, DC, the “night mayor” is actually the director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture. According to its website that office’s role is to, among other things:
- Promote a safe, economically and culturally vibrant night time economy.
- Engage nightlife stakeholders by conducting outreach and providing assistance.
- Solve nighttime issues by collaborating with District government agencies.
- Educate nightlife establishments on existing district policies and regulations through quarterly trainings.
Washington DC’s first “night mayor,” Shawn Townsend, told Bloomberg that he sees his role as mainly diplomatic. His agency doesn’t have the power to make or enforce laws, and he can’t issue any new regulations. However, Townsend said, he hopes that he will be able to share key information and get different government agencies to work effectively with the city’s bars, clubs, and other nightlife venues:
“I don’t have any regulatory authority. I don’t have any enforcement authority. I’m leaving that to the regulatory agencies,” he says. “I’m looking to serve as a bridge builder, a liaison between nightlife businesses and these government agencies that currently exist.”
New York City’s Office of Nightlife describes its role in similar terms, although, according to its website, the office includes a focus on “social justice” and on “quality of life”:
Although the Office of Nightlife is not a reporting or enforcement agency, we are committed to working with nightlife operators, workers, performers, patrons and residents to address their challenges. Working with our partner agencies across City and State government, the Office of Nightlife is committed to promoting safe spaces and social justice, protecting grassroots cultural spaces, streamlining red tape and regulations, working with agencies to develop recommendations that help to ensure fair and proportionate enforcement, and advancing quality of life for all New Yorkers.
Experts say that in many cities, planners don’t take into account the impact of night life. Traffic and transportation planning tends to focus on the needs of daytime commuters, and planners forget to take into account the additional wear and tear on infrastructure that will be caused by people going out at night. As more and more cities try to attract younger populations, it’s become increasingly important to hire someone who can ensure that the city can accommodate the needs of its nighttime population, as well as its daytime population. That’s why cities like San Francisco and Pittsburgh, as well as Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Iowa City have hired “night mayors.”
Across the Atlantic, a number of European cities also have “night mayors.” Paris and Toulouse, France, both have night mayors; so do Amsterdam and Zurich. In Latin America Cali, Colombia recently hired its first night mayor as well.