‘Night mayor’ could help Edmonton boost restaurant, entertainment industry
Edmontonians working to bring the streets to life in the evening could have the help of a “night mayor” to champion their industries by next year.
Some members of sectors that include the hospitality and live entertainment industries say they have nowhere to turn for assistance outside weekday business hours at city hall. But that could change as the city and Explore Edmonton work on plans to support the nighttime economy, potentially including an advocate or “night mayor,” who would be available beyond regular business hours.
Brent Oliver, who books events for five live event venues in Edmonton, says that a dedicated night economy office would help such businesses caught jumping through hoops without a dedicated city resource right now. The city corporation needs to find a way to support them, he said.
“If you can make (the nighttime economy) more robust, safer, more economically viable, and have a champion at the city or champions in the office, I think it’s going to beneficial for the city in the long run,” he said.
“A nighttime economy office can ‘point the finger’ and you have to consider with a vibrant economy we have to populate these places with these kinds of business.”
Oliver and representatives for business improvement areas told council last month that such an office will help industry operating outside workday hours navigate challenges and advocate for ways to address problems both inside and outside the municipality’s control.
For instance, one venue Oliver works with Downtown sometimes has to deal with social disorder taking place near a neighbouring LRT station at night. Their only recourse is to call the police.
“I don’t think that solves anything, that just sweeps people away for a while,” he said, adding he would like to see a better co-ordinated approach involving social services.
Other municipalities including Toronto, Vancouver and New York City have created similar offices to help businesses that operate in the evening. According to a staff report, the position of night mayor would largely be symbolic. A city councillor or another person could be appointed to champion the industry — it wouldn’t involve an election.
During the June 29 executive committee meeting, Coun. Jennifer Rice said she’s looking forward to seeing what the policy will look like and finding ways to support the sector.
“If we’re looking for the opportunity for our city to recover from the pandemic, looking for economic growth and recovery, then this nighttime economy is one way to do it,” she said after the meeting. “I think this is another opportunity to explore if there are any different economic opportunities for us to move the city forward.”
Coun. Erin Rutherford told councillors she had worked at local restaurants to pay her way through university so she knows first-hand how important, and also vulnerable, the work can be: “I absolutely think this is an opportunity to enhance that (nighttime economy) further.”
Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, said such businesses could use the support.
“Our live events industry or nighttime economy, our hospitality industry, has been some of the most negatively impacted,” she said following that meeting. “I think we recognize that there is a huge gap right now between daytime economy and nighttime economy in terms of the resources that they need, and without having (one) … it’s not going to recover on its own and it’s not going to be as vibrant as an industry as it could be.”
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