What Europe’s ‘Night Mayors’ Can Teach New York

The bill is intended to help the city’s struggling music venues, in particular its smaller ones, 20 percent of which have closed in the last 15 years because of rising real estate prices, zoning pressures, noise complaints and licensing problems, according to a recent report by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. CBGB, the East Village institution where The Ramones and Blondie had frequently played, closed in 2006; Bungalow 8 in Chelsea shut down in 2009; and the venue Shea Stadium, an epicenter of Brooklyn’s D.I.Y. music scene, shuttered this year after losing its lease.

The most established example that New York will look to is Amsterdam’s “nachtburgemeester,” a position established in 2003 when the Dutch capital’s night life was in decline. Mirik Milan, 36 and a former nightclub promoter, was elected in 2012 and tasked with sustaining Amsterdam’s night life while still appeasing local residents. Mr. Milan said one of his biggest hurdles has been convincing city officials that night life is about more than just partying. Even in the famously open-minded Netherlands, this has been a challenge.

“The night is always treated differently to the day,” he said. “When there is a problem at night, the first reaction of city officials or police commissioners is to stop it. Instead what you would do in the day is bring all the stakeholders together and try to at least make the situation a bit better.”

Mr. Milan’s flagship project has been the introduction of ten 24-hour venues on the western outskirts of the city. The idea was to alleviate the pressure on the city’s heaving center and create a purpose-built nighttime district. The area contains several multidisciplinary venues, including art galleries and co-working spaces, as well as bars and clubs.

Granting these establishments 24-hour licenses means the venues can set their own operating hours, offering more flexibility for locals and tourists as well as reducing loitering on the streets. “It’s something you see happening everywhere in the world — all venues close at the same time,” Mr. Milan said. “So people spill out onto the street at the same time, which of course causes a lot of problems and nuisance for people living in these areas.”


The cabaret performer Amy Lamé has been London’s “night czar” since November 2016.

Jon Furniss/WireImage, via Getty Images

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