NIGHTLIFE: DOLLARS & SENSE

The NYC Office of Nightlife’s first economic impact report shows growth in the sector amidst challenges for business owners and operators.  City Council Member Rafael Espinal, along with the Office of Nightlife, is working to cut through the red tape, but some residents say their neighborhood is already over-saturated with liquor licenses.

Aired on March 5 & September 6, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> NEW YORK CITY IS KNOWN FOR ITS NIGHTLIFE BUT FEELINGS ABOUT ITS BARS, CLUBS AND RESTAURANTS CAN CHANGE DEPENDING WHETHER YOU'RE LOOKING TO PARTY OR LOOKING TO GET SOME SHUT EYE.

THE NEW YORK OFFICE OF NIGHTLIFE'S FIRST EVER ECONOMIC IMPACT STUDY SHOWS GROWTH IN THE SECTOR.

BUT NOT EVERYONE THINKS THAT'S NECESSARILY A GOOD THING.

HERE'S THE STORY.

WANT TO GO OUT IN MANHATTAN?

13,000 OPTIONS.

THAT'S ACCORDING TO THE FIRST ECONOMIC IMPACT STUDY PUT OUT IN LATE JANUARY BY MAYOR DE BLASIO'S NEW YORK OFFICE OF NIGHTLIFE.

A DIVISION OF THE OFFICE OF MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT.

THE AGENCY WAS ESTABLISHED IN 2017 FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF OTHER MAJOR CITIES LIKE LONDON, AMSTERDAM AND PARIS TO HELP STREAMLINE REGULATIONS AND BALANCE THE NEEDS OF NIGHTLIFE BUSINESSES WITH THOSE OF THE COMMUNITIES THAT HOUSE THEM.

ARIELLE, A FORMER NIGHTCLUB OWNER, THE OFFICE OF NIGHTLIFE'S SENIOR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR.

THE OFFICE AS WE LIKE TO DESCRIBE IT AND WHAT ITS RESPONSIBILITIES ARE IS TO BE A CENTRAL POINT OF CONTACT FOR THE NIGHTLIFE INDUSTRY, ITS EMPLOYEES, ITS PATRONS, ITS RESIDENTS, WITH THE CITY, TO ENSURE AND SUPPORT THAT IT'S GOING TO BE VITAL AND EFFICIENT AND SAFE AND FAIR FOR EVERYBODY.

THE AGENCY DEFINES NIGHTLIFE IN THE CITY AS PATRONAGE OF FOOD SERVICE, BARS, THE ARTS, VENUES AND SPORTS AND RECREATION LOCATION BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 6:00 P.M. AND 6:00 A.M.

CONSULTANTS LOOKED AT NOT JUST THE DIRECT ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THIS PATRONAGE BUT THE INDIRECT LIKE MONEY PAID TO RESTAURANT FOOD SUPPLIERS OR TAXIS HIRED TO DRIVE PEOPLE FROM POINT 'A' TO POINT 'B'.

PEOPLE GO OUT TO SPEND MONEY IN THE ECONOMY, THERE'S A RIPPLE EFFECT.

NIGHTLIFE SUPPORTS 300,000 JOBS, $13 BILLION IN WAGES AND $35 BILLION IN ECONOMIC OUTPUT.

ONE OF THE THING IT SPEAKS TO, NIGHTLIFE IS PART OF THE FABRIC OF NEW YORK CITY'S ECONOMY.

RAFAEL MADE NEW YORK CITY'S NIGHTLIFE ECONOMY A FOCAL POINT OF HIS WORK.

HE HELPED CREATE THE OFFICE OF NIGHTLIFE AND HE INTRODUCED LEGISLATION THAT ULTIMATELY HELPED REPEAL THE CITY'S 91-YEAR-OLD CABARET LAW THAT PREVENTED DANCING IN ESTABLISHMENTS NOT OFFICIALLY LICENSED AS CABARETS.

HE SAYS THERE ARE STILL A NUMBER OF REGULATIONS HE PLANS TO STREAMLINE THAT CURRENTLY HINDERS SMALL BUSINESSES FROM SUCCEEDING AND THE NIGHTLIFE STUDY REFLECTS THAT IN ITS FINDINGS.

THERE'S ABOUT TEN DIFFERENT AGENCIES AND ESTABLISHMENTS WE INTERACT WITH ON A DAILY BASIS FROM THE MOMENT THEY OPEN DOORS THROUGHOUT THE LIFETIME OF THE BUSINESS.

INCLUDING NYPD, FIRE DEPARTMENT, BUILDINGS DEPARTMENT, HEALTH DEPARTMENT, NOT TO MENTION THE STATE LIQUOR AUTHORITY.

THAT'S WHAT REALLY GETS MURKY, RIGHT?

WHO TO TALK TO DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE, IT JUST BECOMES BURDENSOME TO THE BUSINESS OWNER.

ACCORDING TO THE CITY'S NIGHTLIFE ECONOMIC IMPACT STUDY, REGULATORY RED TAPE IS A MAJOR CONCERN FOR BUSINESS OWNERS AND OPERATORS, BUT IT ISN'T THE ONLY ONE.

RISING COMMERCIAL RENTS ARE CITED AS THE NUMBER ONE CHALLENGE OWNERS AND OPERATORS FACE.

POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS CHOOSING TO SAVE THEIR DRINK MONEY TO STAY HOME, NETFLIX AND CHILL IS ANOTHER OBSTACLE AND NEARLY HALF OF NIGHTLIFE BUSINESS OWNERS AND OPERATORS POINT TO THE COMMUNITY BOARD PROCESS AS A ROAD BLOCK.

THOUGH NOT EVERYONE SEES THE COMMUNITY BOARDS THAT WAY.

THEY'VE BEEN IGNORED.

WITHIN ANY DIRECTION OF WHERE I'M STANDING.

TALKING ABOUT LIQUOR LICENSES.

BOYD IS A FOUNDER AND STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBER OF NEIGHBORHOODS UNITED, AN ADVOCACY GROUP FOCUSED ON PROTECTING QUALITY OF LIFE IN NEW YORK CITY NEIGHBORHOODS.

SHE LIVES IN AN AREA SOMETIMES REFERRED TO AS HOUSE SQUARE, A STRETCH OF BLOCKS FROM HOUSE TO DLANSI TO CLINTON.

WHAT DOES THIS AREA LOOK LIKE ON ANY GIVEN SATURDAY NIGHT?

CARS LINED UP FROM HOUSES ON TO DELANCY TO ALLEN ALL THE WAY TO CLINTON AND EVERY DIRECTION, ALL YOU HAVE IS CHAOS OF CARS.

POLICE CARS, ON SOME OF THE CORNERS.

AND THEN YOU HAVE CROWDS OF PEOPLE CAR HOPPING, BAR HOPPING FROM AREA TO AREA AND PACKS OF SCREAMING PEOPLE THAT LITERALLY ARE UNDERNEATH YOUR WINDOW.

BY 4:00 E EVERYONE OUT, IT'S JUST MADNESS.

ELLEN ALSO LIVES IN THE AREA AND OWNS A VINTAGE CLOTHING BU T TIQUE HERE.

I'M A SINGLE MOTHER, RAISING A DAUGHTER.

AS A RESIDENT AND BUSINESS OWNER, IT'S LIKE DESTROYED OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.

THERE'S VOMIT IN THE DOORWAY.

YOU KNOW, SCREAMING NOISE, MY APARTMENT, IT'S ONE FLIGHT UP FACING THE STREET.

IT'S HORRIBLE.

IT'S LIKE THEY'RE IN OUR APARTMENT BUT I CAN'T MOVE BECAUSE I HAVE A BARELY AFFORDABLE AND RENT STABILIZED APARTMENT.

SHE'S NOT AGAINST NIGHTLIFE BUT SATURATION OF LIQUOR LICENSES IN CLUSTERS.

CITES STUDIES FROM THE CDC AND PACIFIC RESEARCH FOR EVALUATION AND OTHERS, UPTICK IN ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR LIKE PUBLIC DRUNKENNESS AND CRIME WITH AREAS OF HIGH SATURATION OF LIQUOR.

ENFORCING A LAW ON THE BOOKS, THE 500 FOOT LAW.

ESSENTIALLY, IF THERE'S THREE BARS OR RESTAURANTS WITHIN 500 FEET OF EACH OTHER, A FOURTH CANNOT BE LICENSED WITHOUT A CLEAR DEMONSTRATION OF PUBLIC INTEREST.

MEANING THE COMMUNITY HAS TO SAY, WE WANT THIS.

YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER CERTAIN THINGS LIKE THE IMPACT TO A COMMUNITY ON LIKE NOISE, TRAFFIC, AND ALL THESE THINGS BUT SOMEHOW, ALL THE FACTORS SOMEHOW GOT ELIMINATED IN THE PROCESS.

MANY BUSINESSES SEEKING A LIQUOR LICENSE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO WORK AROUND THE 500 FOOT LAW BY CITING ECONOMIC IMPACT OF A NEW BUSINESS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD AS A PUBLIC BENEFIT.

THIS IS WHAT'S GOING ON BY DESIGN IN THE BRONX RIGHT NOW AND IN QUEENS.

SO ALL IS HAPPENING IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR MOSTLY AND WORKING CLASS.

THEY'RE BEING BULLDOZED BY THE TOTAL ABSENCE OF PROTECTIONS BEING IGNORED.

THE NIGHTLIFE IMPACT STUDY DOESN'T TELL THE FULL STORY.

SHE SAID NIGHTLIFE CLUSTERS LIKE THE ONE IN HER NEIGHBORHOOD ARE INORGANIC AND HYPERGENTRIFICATION.

COMMUNITY MEMBERS PRICED OUT BY $20 DRINKS AND HIKE UP RENTS IN HOPES OF BETTER INCOME.

WHAT WE'VE LOST IS OUR COMMUNITY, OUR NEIGHBORHOODS.

THE OFFICE OF NIGHTLIFE'S RESEARCH DOES NOT SUPPORT THE IDEA OF CLUSTER SITES OR MORE NIGHTLIFE ESTABLISHMENTS IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.

COUNCIL MEMBER SAYS THEY'RE MOST INTERESTED IN BEING GOOD NEIGHBORS.

THEY SAY IT'S INCUMBENT ON THE COMMUNITY BOARDS, ELECTED OFFICIALS, THE STATE LIQUOR AUTHORITY AND OTHERS TO LISTEN TO THE COMMUNITY WHEN ISSUES ARISE.

I THINK UP UNTIL NOW, THE WAY THAT NIGHTLIFE HAS INTERACTED WITH COMMUNITY AS WELL AS CITY AGENCIES HAVE BEEN MORE REACTIVE, THE GOAL OF THE OFFICE OF NIGHTLIFE IS TO BE MORE PROACTIVE AND TO UTILIZE THE RESOURCES THAT WE HAVE WITH DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, SANITATION, NYPD, TO BE ABLE TO REALLY STREAMLINE AND MAKE SURE THEY'RE WORKING IN CONCERT WITH EACH OTHER TO MITIGATE.

THEY INTRODUCED LAST YEAR, HE EXPLAINS VIA AN E-MAIL STATEMENT THAT THIS LEGISLATION WOULD REQUIRE NEW RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS NEAR NIGHTLIFE VENUES AND NEW NIGHTLIFE VENUES NEAR RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS TO INSTALL SOUNDPROOFING SO THEY CAN CO-EXIST PEACEFULLY.

ULTIMATELY, BOTH NEIGHBORHOODS UNITED AND THE OFFICE OF NIGHTLIFE SAY THEY'RE TRYING TO PROTECT NEW YORK CITY'S CULTURE WITH THEIR EFFORTS BUT WHAT'S CLEAR IS THAT IN A PLACE SO BUSTLING WITH ACTIVITY, IT'S THOUGHT TO NEVER SLEEP, WHAT'S CONSIDERED THE CITY'S CULTURE IS SUBJECTIVE.

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