For some, Vancouver’s nightlife is a nightmare. Could the solution be a ‘Night Mayor?’
Could it take a “Night Mayor” to realize Vancouver’s dream of a safer, more vibrant nightlife?
Mirik Milan is the first person to hold that job title in the City of Amsterdam. He acts as a liaison between the city’s entertainment and nightlife industries, residents and elected officials.
He was elected to the job in 2012 and the city has changed in dramatic ways for the better in the years since, he said.
LISTEN: Who is the Night Mayor, and what does he do?
The night mayor isn’t a public official like the city’s true mayor. He’s actually the head of an independent non-profit organization focused on keeping the city’s nightlife healthy, vibrant and safe.
In the five years he’s been in the job, Milan said Amsterdam has seen a 25-per-cent drop in alcohol-related harm and a 30-per-cent drop in nuisance calls such as littering or people relieving themselves in public.
Speaking with CKNW’s Lynda Steele Show, the former nightclub promoter said the key to that success was having a person who understands the nightlife industry and can work with both the community and operators.
“I think every city can benefit from having this liaison that finds the middle path and makes sure everyone works together,” he said. “We always say by having a dialogue we can change the rules of the game.
“[Amsterdam’s] mayor makes all the decisions, the city council makes all the decisions, but having somebody that connects both sides can really help your city.”
24 hour party people?
One of Milan’s most successful initiatives — and one that he said has helped cut down on public disorder of the type seen on Vancouver’s Granville strip — was allowing 24-hour clubs.
The venues are distributed around the city’s outskirts rather than clustered in the core.
“Because there’s longer opening hours you can also spread out the people over the night,” he said.
“They don’t have to push out the people all at the same time, because then you have too much people on the street all together, it’s not controllable anymore, and it definitely will make noise for neighbours.”
The permits weren’t the only change that Milan spearheaded.
During his term, the city took a second look at how public space was set up, with a focus on easy access to transit, taxi access, good lighting and safety, he said.
“Square hosts” wearing red coats now patrol the streets and take pressure off police as by acting as non-aggressive intermediaries.
The city also has a mobile app that connects law enforcement to city residents to deal with noise and disorder problems quickly when they do crop up, ensuring the public doesn’t feel like it’s being neglected, Milan said.
The result has been the revitalization of the city’s nightlife, according to him — a factor that has attracted young, creative people. And where the young, creative people are, the creative industries follow, he said.
“There are no quick fixes when it comes to nightlife policy. It’s really a long term — you can’t wave a magic wand around and change it all.”
Would having a Night Mayor position in Vancouver benefit the city?
Night mayor of Vancouver?
Other cities are taking notice. Paris and Zurich have since implemented their own night mayors, and Milan said Vancouver could benefit from one too.
It’s an idea some, like Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) president and CEO Charles Gauthier, are taking seriously.
Gauthier has been outspoken about transit and safety issues in the downtown core, issues that have come into sharp relief in the wake of the January murder of a Vancouver nightclub worker.
“Right now it’s not getting the attention it deserves, and that’s not a criticism of anyone in particular,” Gauthier said.
Gautier argued that putting a new focus on the city’s night economy will pay off — not just for the people who work directly within it and its spinoffs, but in helping Vancouver compete with cities like Berlin and London.
“It really would support a lot of the other sectors that we’re trying to encourage in this city, like the tech sector right?” Gauthier said.
“We want tech workers here, so we really have to make this city interesting for the millennials, and for the younger generation.”
However, it appears no one will be taking the office in Vancouver any time soon.
In a statement to Global News, the city agreed that the concept was a good one and worth exploring, but said there were no plans to formally pursue a night mayor.
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