Washington Wants to Hire a Night Mayor. So What Is That?

Night mayor, night manager, night czar: The job has many names, but the idea is similar.

Last week, the District of Columbia joined a small but growing number of cities worldwide when it posted a hiring notice for someone to run its new Office of Night Life and Culture.

Washington hopes to find someone to coordinate and manage issues — including noise complaints, reports of harassment and vomiting on the sidewalk — that affect many bars, restaurants, music venues and other businesses.

A night mayor is a city’s point person for issues that crop up at night, which municipalities traditionally have not separately planned for, said Jim Peters, president of the Responsible Hospitality Institute, which has helped cities like Toronto, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando create similar positions.

Cities might, for example, plan roads and traffic restrictions for a daytime commute, Mr. Peters said, but not consider that a neighborhood along that route has a congested bar scene after it gets dark.

A night mayor would help make sure that planners, who may work mostly during the day, hear that information, Mr. Peters said.

While the idea has been around for decades, he said, many cities have more recently focused on their night life economy as they grow in size and gentrify, often drawing younger people looking for a social scene.

Large cities, like San Francisco and Pittsburgh, as well as smaller ones, like Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa, have similar initiatives.

“One city is doing it and now another city is doing it,” Mr. Peters said.

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Many of the positions are based on the nachtburgemeester in Amsterdam, which established the position in 2003 when its night life was in decline. There, the night mayor pushed a project to create 10 24-hour venues on the western outskirts of the city containing art galleries and co-working spaces, as well as bars and clubs.

In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan appointed an American-born British performer and comedian, Amy Lamé, as the city’s first “night czar” in 2016. In an interview with The New York Times last year, Ms. Lamé said that she looked at issues of policing and crime, transport, culture, planning, and housing.

Drawing in part on European examples, New York appointed its first night life mayor, Ariel Palitz, this year to promote late-night businesses and to try to relieve tensions with neighborhood residents who may take offense at the noise and vomit that often come with such establishments.

In New York’s case, the move was also intended in part to help the city’s smaller music venues, many which have struggled in the face of rising real estate prices, zoning pressures and noise complaints.

Ms. Palitz is currently holding a listening tour to hear ideas about how to improve the city’s night life. After it ends on Nov. 28, the city plans to determine which specific initiatives to pursue.

Researchers teamed up with Amsterdam’s former night mayor and a spokesman for a similar position in Berlin to study the state of nearly 500 live-music spaces across New York’s five boroughs and compile a “creative footprint” for New York, which they presented to Ms. Palitz. Among their findings was that the most creative spaces are the most economically at risk.

In Washington, residents and business owners are increasingly confronting issues of traffic and congestion, public safety, noise, and gentrification, Lindsey Parker, the deputy chief of staff for Mayor Muriel Bowser, said in an interview.

Mayor Bowser is expected next week to sign a bill recently approved by the D.C. Council to create the office, Ms. Parker said. The new office will also look for ways to make those nighttime businesses safer for patrons and workers, and help mediate disputes with neighbors, according to the bill.

Specifics of how exactly the director will address such issues still have to be hashed out, Ms. Parker said. One of the director’s first tasks will be to take stock of existing issues.

The prospect of a night mayor has raised questions about who benefits most from these kinds of positions: the new businesses and fresh arrivals, or longtime residents.

Denis James, president of the Kalorama Citizens Association, which includes the neighborhood Adams Morgan that has a popular night life scene, said the city’s new initiative is just an attempt to cater to business and further hamper the ability of residents to lodge noise complaints or challenge businesses that affect their quality of life.

“It has very nebulous powers,” he said. “It’s an interfering agent on behalf of business.”

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Vivian Blair