Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have proven their worth as highly effective delivery vehicles with the ability to raise additional revenue to improve the areas in which they operate.
At the recent Westminster Forum event “Developing the UK’s night-time economy – expansion, responsibility and priorities”, held on the 12th September 2018, at which our director Jo Cox-Brown spoke, encouraging BIDs to be more involved in helping to resolve issues within the night time economy was raised as an issue.
Most town and city centre BIDs will include a proportion of licensed premises paying an annual levy to the BID. Many BIDs recognise the symbiotic relationship between night and day, and attendees at the event in London heard from Jason Thorndycraft of the Deltic Group how stifling a centre’s night time economy has a tangible impact within two to three years on its day time economy. So why are so many BIDs perceived to be focussed on the day time economy alone?
During my time at Nottingham Leisure BID, I was continually asked the same question: “How do you engage the night time economy businesses?”. I believe this is the crux of the issue: BIDs are keen to engage with the night time economy, but are just unsure as to how. Here are a few brief thoughts from my time within this niche area:
- Understand their needs. The issues facing night time operators are very different from those facing retailers. The licensed trade are highly regulated, and legislation affecting them can change regularly. They can be treated as an inconvenience. Relationships with police and council can be fragile. Many revellers pre-load at home, with the effects of this alcohol hitting them in the venues – so they have to deal with the issues this causes even though the customer has not bought the alcohol there. Taking time to understand their specific concerns and think about how these can be supported pays dividends. One of the most valued things we did as the Nottingham Leisure BID was act as a voice for the licensed trade, representing businesses on city centre forums, responded to consultations on their behalf, building strong relationships with the police and council and working together on policies affecting the trade, helping them to become part of the solution, not seen as the cause of all the problems. Securing support from a local licensing solicitor can be helpful, as they can help to ensure the BID knows about and can regularly communicate changes in legislation affecting licensed premises.
- What’s in it for them? Think about what projects could be delivered that have specific benefit for them and the city as a whole. Best Bar None is a popular project for example, but it needs to have a decent marketing budget behind it to deliver the benefits in return for the significant work and time required for venues to participate.
- Be visible at night. I’m not just talking about having an evening ambassador team. Make sure your BID manager or chief executive spends at least two late nights a year out and about, preferably more if possible, so that she or he knows what the city is truly like after dark. If you have achieved or are pursuing Purple Flag status, the self-assessment is an ideal opportunity for this. Venue managers also appreciate seeing the BID figurehead making an effort to understand the environment they work with and have to manage. Most people that I have accompanied on a night out observing their town or city after dark are surprised at what the venues have to deal with, and how highly trained and skilled their staff are at coping with a wide range of issues.
- Target your messages. First rule of sales and marketing: make sure your message is targeted and relevant to your audience. For example, if you have a presentation that your street ambassadors or rangers go out and talk through with your members, make sure that you have a version for each type of member. Some projects will be more beneficial to some sectors than others, so make sure you prioritise those that will be of most interest to the licensed trade when speaking to them about your BID’s activities.
- If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed… You have probably set up some really effective steering groups within your BID, but are finding that there is a severe lack of licensed premises. Think about the time of day and day of week you hold the meetings; really early in the mornings or any time on Fridays would be problematic for the licensed trade, and many venue managers take Monday as a vital “admin day”. Play around with meeting timings or get your street teams to ask some key likely attendees what days and times would be most convenient. If all else fails, see if you can get in front of the trade in a pre-existing forum, such as the local Pubwatch.
At Night Time Economy Solutions, working with licensed premises is one of our favourite things to do. If you’d like some support to do this in your town or city, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.