The first email I opened this morning was from HuffPost with the title “‘Keep Sydney Open’ Celebrate Wins Against Lockout Laws With A Huge Kings Cross Festival” and it got me thinking about how often cities try to legislate themselves out of a problem, hoping that if they put the right laws in place their citizens will behave like good robots and all will be well.
I have watched many cities try to legislate their way out of the problems of the evening night time economy with things such as lockout laws, banning orders, late night levies, saturation zones the list could go on, but from what I have seen none of these laws has, had the desired effects, when used in isolation from good partnership practise and and an achievable mutual evening and night-time economy (ENTE) strategy.
Why haven’t these legislative practices worked?
- When used in isolation they have destroyed the ENTE’s natural creativeness, vibrancy and the huge economic benefits that it brings in driving employment, tourism, and entertaining the people that live and work there.
- They have closed down vitally important businesses, decreasing entry level employment opportunities, leaving boarded-up premises which then attract a different type of crime.
- Tourists think it’s boring and go elsewhere also taking their money for the day time economy with them.
- Daytime economy businesses find it hard to recruit quality staff because no one wants to work in a city where you have no good after work entertainment.
- Legislation relies on policing, and we have reduced the number of police on the streets to enforce the legislation.
- It’s hard to get the information disseminated out to the licenced premises and even harder for pressed door staff and bar staff to implement all of the legislation. For example banning orders bar staff/door staff have to check the faces of the 100’s or sometimes 1000’s of customers coming through their doors (unless they have one of those new very expensive ID machines such as ClubScan or EntryScanner which for most nightclubs especially in smaller cities is unattainable) whilst also deciding whether they are one of the people they should or shouldn’t serve, are they underage, ID checking, drunk, drugged, likely to become a threat, what drink they are asking for, smile and give excellent customer service (all whilst being paid somewhere around minimum wage and often given targets of welcoming and serving the customer in under 2 minutes, whilst creating a party vibe, to make it a super fun, high-octane place to be).
So if legislating our way out of the problem doesn’t work what does?
We need carefully curated night time economies, that allow for creativity, vibrancy, economic prosperity alongside good planning, sensible and mutual policies and legislation. Here are some examples of things that I have seen working well in the night time economy.
- Partnership working: When I talk to cities about partnership working they often say we are already partnership working. When I ask them whom their partnership consists of they say oooh Police and the council, sometimes it includes the NHS or maybe a voluntary group or a university. However true partnership working is the core of success. True partnership working consists of all those involved in the night time economy, venues, restaurants, retail, businesses, transport, councils, police, BIDs, hospitals, ambulance services, education, universities, accommodation providers, student bodies, this is what true partnership working looks like. By pooling knowledge, resources and budgets, this is where you will start to make the biggest inroads into tackling enduring problems. However, the partnerships shouldn’t just be focused on problems they actively need to be planning for the future and looking at how they can grow the economy by strategically curating what they want to see develop, not just managing what they don’t.
- Evening and Night Time Economy Strategy: We need to stop seeing the day time economy as an opportunity and the night time economy as a problem. The night time economy has huge potential for growth. It brings in £66 billion a year for the UK economy, imagine if we could grow that by offering more diversity. However, in order to grow the NTE needs a proper strategy, with all strategic partners involved and bought into the process of creating and implementing the strategy, and this includes strategically inviting and curating space for inward investment.
- Business Improvement Districts (Bids): Bids by nature are linked to the businesses that fund them (or should be) they have their finger on the pulse as to what is happening and are well placed to seek the perspective of the businesses that they serve. We really need the perspective of the businesses when designing a night time economy strategy, because it has to be achievable. They also come with the added value of a pot of collected money for implementing mutually good projects to make a difference in the city and help draw in a different crowd. However, they have to be equally focused on the day and night time economy. I have seen some really great projects delivered by Bids around the country, such as Taxi Marshall’s, Light Nights, Late night markets, Subsidised Training for Licensed premises to name a few.
- Voluntary Sector Organisations: Across the UK voluntary groups such as Street Pastors, Safe Spaces, Street Angels are hero’s working throughout the night to keep our cities safe and help take pressure off emergency services and get vulnerable people home safely at the end of a night out. However, a little-known fact is that where they are working closely in partnership with venues, emergency services and fully integrated into the ENTE they significantly reduce crime levels by 45% in some circumstances. They have a calming effect on cities as they set a different tone, spread compassion and love and this should not be underestimated. However, they do need properly funded by the partnership to be successful.
- Diversification of the Evening and Night Time Economy: in a previous article Creating a mixed-use Night Time Economy (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/creating-mixed-use-night-time-economy-joanne-cox-brown) I talked about the importance of not just catering for those who want to drink, we need to look at other options to bring in a mixed age crowd such as late night opening of retail, heritage, culture venues and new leisure offers such as board game shops, crystal maze or breakout type offers, coffee shops, street entertainment and festivals.
Written by Jo Cox-Brown July 2017
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