Vancouver’s nighttime economy needs to realize its full potential, councillor says

Bright lights and traffic along the Granville Mall, downtown Vancouver, B.C., January 4, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Bayne Stanley

A Vancouver councillor is looking to unlock the full potential of the city’s nighttime economy and erase its reputation as a “no fun” place to live.

Coun. Lisa Dominato’s motion is calling for a comprehensive nighttime economic strategy that will “remove obstacles and impediments to realizing the economic and other potentials” of Vancouver’s dining, entertainment, music and transit sectors after the sun goes down.

“This is about creating jobs and supporting our tax base, but it’s also about the livability of our city and the vibrancy of our neighbourhoods,” Dominato said.

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The plan would build off the city’s work on its music strategy, liquor policy and creative city strategy over the past year.

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The freshman NPA councillor says other cities around the world like London and Toronto already have successfully adopted similar strategies that pay attention to their nighttime economies, and wants Vancouver to join that elite group.

“I think we have great opportunity here,” she said. “The reason cities are looking at this is they’re looking at economic benefits, but people also want to live in vibrant cities.”

The motion notes the Granville Entertainment District alone generates $43.5 million per year just through the area’s bars and pubs, which also employ more than 900 workers.

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But Dominato’s vision for the strategy goes beyond the Granville strip and other bar districts, calling for activities that target families, seniors and students.

“Young people are looking for different activities, seniors are looking for activities,” she said. “People are looking to diversify and are seeking positive experiences in the city.”

It also looks to unlock further economic benefits for the city’s retail, tourism and corporate sectors, many of which don’t have an incentive to stay open late or are unable to do so due to current city regulations.

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Dominato’s motion goes before council May 28. If passed, it would direct city staff to begin consultation in 2020, with a draft strategy due by June 2021.

The councillor said she’s excited to potentially solve a problem that has vexed previous councils, and that residents appear to support.

“I’ve heard enormous positive feedback from the public,” Dominato said. “People seem to be excited about having this conversation, and so am I.”

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