Night Mayors and the Serious Business of Having Fun


A new job title has emerged in cities around the world to advocate for night owls and young creatives. Night mayors encourages drunk people to keep it down, nurture the arts, and instigate neighborhood revitalization. Some appointed, some elected, night mayors act as an intermediary between nightlife industries and government.

In many cities, the solutions to noisy, disruptive bars have been curfews, raids, or closing businesses outright. Yet nightlife in the U.S. generates tens of billions of dollars a year. And as more people move to cities, nightlife can be directly tied to the larger economy. A robust nightlife attracts “a lot of young creative people and they are followed by the creative industries.”

Amsterdam’s night mayor is a former party promoter named Mirik Milan who refers to himself as “a rebel in a suit.” Not forcing a bunch of less than sober people into the street at 4 a.m., he argues, helps reduce noise complaints.

Paris, Zurich, Berlin, and other cities now have or are currently considering a night mayor. The first-ever Night Mayors Summit will be held in Amsterdam in April, a day after an international meeting of the other kind of mayor (day mayors?).

London, also considering its own night mayor position, has lost more than one-third of all grassroots live music venues operating in 2007, the Music Venues Taskforce commissioned by the city found. “Without the spaces for new talent to discover itself and its audience, music in London will die a slow death,” musician Frank Turner told Vice.

When Boston opened its mass transit to late night travel, the presumption was it would support partygoers and college students but found an adverse impact on minority and low income residents.

This feels similar to the politics around marijuana. There may be an assumption that this is just an attempt by less than serious people to have more fun at night, but the policies night mayors attempt to influence have a very serious impact. Maybe every city doesn’t need a mayor of night but all cities need nightlife to attract talent and the soul that keeps people coming back.

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Photo Credit: Daniel Harvey

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