$29 Billion Annually Can’t Be Wrong; How NYC Is Investing In Nightlife

The City That Never Sleeps
Courtesy Output
– The City That Never Sleeps
Output, a dance club in Williamsburg Brooklyn, is among NYC’s nightlife economy that the city says generates $29.1 billion annually, provides 250,000 jobs and pays out $10.96 billion in wages.
In a congested city like New York, the battle for nightlife versus daylife has been fought for at least a century and continues to this day. Even in addressing “party central” areas such as Chelsea and Williamsburg, Nicolas Matar, co-owner of the Brooklyn dance club Output, poses an interesting question that’s not easy to answer: “Is there a way for a neighborhood to become gentrified and still have a nightlife?”
The answer to that complex question could soon become municipal policy as it was asked at a New York Music Month seminar titled “Innovation at the Intersection of Music + Nightlife” June 8 at NYU. The event, sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, NY Is Music, and the NYU Steinhardt Music Business Program, brought together a cross-section of nightlife stakeholders who sought to better understand the city’s permitting processes (which have been called Byzantine at best), laws (once considered anti-development under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s draconian Nightlife Task Force) and the particulars of Gotham’s neighborhood-by-neighborhood customs (something of a tower of Babel in toto).
A year ago, the first in which the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment had music in its purview, the group emphasized venue preservation, tech innovations and the job front at its seminar. The group was also pleased as punch about getting the Grammys to relocate to New York for the first time in 15 years (though it has yet to release data on the economic impact).
This year, with the focus on nightlife, the mayor’s office released preliminary figures related to the first-ever financial impact of activities that occur between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. in the five boroughs and seemed to be reveling in the numbers.
Overall, nightlife in New York City produces a total economic output of $29.1 billion annually, provides 250,000 jobs and pays out $10.96 billion in wages. Nightlife is divided into five categories: Bars, food service, sports & rec, arts & culture, and venues.
Not surprisingly, the biggest category by far is food service, which accounts for 73 percent of the output.
Jobs at New York City venues were up 10 percent in 2016 though the average wage for a venue worker was $19,000.
Venues, in 2016, had an output of $1.26 billion, produced 19,900 jobs and paid out $390 million in wages in 2016, a 10 percent increase in jobs and 9 percent in wage growth, Shira Gans, Senior Executive Director of the Media & Entertainment Office, announced.
A full report – data and interviews are continuing into late June – is scheduled to be released in late August, according to Gans. 
“It’s an opportunity to think about clubs as revitalizing neighborhoods,” said Andreina Seijas, a Venezuelan public policy analyst specializing in nighttime planning as part of her doctoral degree at Harvard University. 
She cited the effect of new laws in Melbourne and potential policy changes in London and San Francisco as crucial to setting new standards for the role of nightlife. 

Nightlife Comrades in Arms:
Antoine Braxton / Courtesy New York Music Month
– Nightlife Comrades in Arms:
Ariel Palitz of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment with DJ/producer Just Blaze, a speaker at this year’s conference.
Ariel Palitz, NYC’s senior executive director of nightlife (i.e. the new nightlife mayor) in the Mayor’s Office Media & Entertainment, noted, “New York City is fashionably late to the party. There’s been no conscious effort to look at this as an ecosystem.”
Seijas used Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, as a potential new paradigm. The city was abandoned at night and rather than attempt to get lawmakers and shopkeepers to stay around later, they created “crossover activities” to bring in a different population at night, specifically younger people.
The activities not only benefitted downtown economically, it led to the financing of infrastructure improvements such as new sidewalks and street lighting.
Palitz, who was tapped in March to become New York City’s nightlife mayor, seemed to be assessing and seeking advice on how best to stimulate and protect the complex nightlife market.
 “I’ve been around venues for 15 years and I’m faced with issues that are quite complex,” said Output’s Matar. “A young artist opening a DIY venue in Bushwick has no idea how to do it.”
While the seminar didn’t provide exact answers on how best to navigate the city as a venue operator – or even how Palitz should do her job – it did provide plenty of insights into how various owners and operators are navigating the future.
One word that came up over and over was “community.” 
At the conference, the community was represented in part by a cross-section of speakers that included City Winery’s Michael Dorf, musician Roxy Cross, Mother of Brooklyn’s Merrie Cherry, New York Police Department’s inspector Michelle Irizarry, Downtown Music Publishing’s Justin Kalifowitz, the Apollo’s Dwight Jordan, Desi NYC’s Monty Lokesh Kataria, Bowery Presents’ Charley Magrew, Everyday People’s DJ Moma, DJ/producer Just Blaze and Director of NYU’s Music Business program Larry Miller, among many others.
But importantly, this “community” also included the audience and the people involved with neighboring businesses.

Professor Larry Miller, Director of the Music Business program at NYU Steinhardt
Antoine Braxton
– Professor Larry Miller, Director of the Music Business program at NYU Steinhardt
On the high end, Carnegie Hall, for example, will work with 62 cultural partners in next season’s Migrations festival, up from the 36 institutions involved in their recently completed exploration of the 1960s.

In the far reaches of Queens, where more languages are spoken than in any other area of the country, Flushing Town Hall has pioneered a “mashup” program of bringing together disparate acts to perform separately and together – they’ve paired musicians from Japan and Puerto Rico, Haiti and China, and will next unite some Texans and Peruvians on June 15.
“It’s important to support immigrant artists,” Ellen Kodadek, the venue’s executive and artistic director, says. For further community outreach, all teenagers are allowed in for free to every show regardless of ticket price.
Les Poisson Rouge’s LPR Presents promoter arm is now booking shows in seven venues in Manhattan, 14 in Brooklyn and three in Queens.
“It’s as much philosophical as it is business development,” co-founder Justin Kantor says. “Supporting acts early on” – and presenting them before and after they are appropriate for LPR’s 700-person capacity – “is something we inherently and deeply believe in.”
Lincoln Center’s outdoor programs have enlisted the help of the digital media platform Okayafrica.
“We hand over the stage, we hand over the microphone,” said Public Programming Director Jill Sternheimer. “It becomes a wider, broader, deeper conversation.”
Dhruv Chopra is co-owner of the Brooklyn club PopGun, where they are promoting more than 65 events per month.
“The venue is a conduit of cultural revolutions,” he said. “There’s a fundamental eco system – new artist residencies, rehearsal space, the shows. That’s always made New York special.
“Now we’re seeing an intersectional identity, shedding regional boundaries.
“There’s a new diverse population – Latinos who embrace Swedish pop or a rise in underground Korean DJs – and we want to be part of that community. We can be agents of change.” 
For Matar it means being an active and present owner: “You have to oversee things day in and day out to ensure all systems are followed. All it takes are a week or two of mismanagement to have community problems.”
New York City Council member Rafael Espinal Jr., the Brooklyn City Councilman who helped rescind the city’s antiquated Cabaret Laws, is working on another law he plans to introduce soon that creates safeguards for communities affected by gentrification, most importantly protecting existing retail operations in areas that see a sudden spike in nightlife activities and are priced out of their neighborhood.
“We look at venues as an asset,” Espinal said, reinforcing one of the hopeful opening comments from Downtown Music CEO Kalifowitz, who is also a co-founder of New York Music Month: “Nightlife is changing the global perception of New York City.”