The NYC Office of Nightlife, a city agency initiated by Brooklyn Councilmember Rafael Espinal in 2017, officially launched its website on Monday as a one-stop guide for nightlife professionals in the "city that never sleeps."
Espinal spearheaded the establishment of a city agency to support small business owners and employees in the nightlife industry, responding to an increase in venue closures, particularly in Brooklyn and the other outer boroughs. Nightlife venue and bar owners calling for help cited rising rents, nebulous building and business codes as the biggest challenges to keeping their establishments afloat.
"NYC's nightlife is an integral part of our cultural identity, yet bureaucratic red tape, rising rents and lack of community planning has made it increasingly difficult for venues to stay in business," said Espinal who represents the 37th District including Bushwick, Brownsville and East New York.
According to a 2017 economic impact study of New York City nightlife, there are 25,000 nightlife establishment across the five boroughs — including restaurants, bars, arts and culture institutions, and sports and recreation venues. These businesses support 299,000 jobs, generate $13.1 billion in employee compensation and $35.1 billion in total economic output. And, the study found, nightlife-related jobs and wages are growing faster than the rest of the city's economy.
Particularly Brooklyn, where tourism is booming, has seen exponential job growth in nightlife-related industries including hospitality, arts, culture and entertainment.
A 2018 study by the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) and Times Square Alliance, showed that the number of Brooklynites working at performing arts companies nearly tripled, from 515 to 1,508 since 2002. The borough has also seen an increase of 28,171 jobs in restaurants and bars, a 174 percent increase, and 22,252 retail jobs, a 42 percent increase.
"Nightlife is a huge part of the economy of our districts, and the Office of Nightlife is a much-needed resource to support this sector while ensuring that it can continue to exist successfully alongside our important manufacturing districts and residential areas," said Councilmember Antonio Reynoso who represents the 34th District including Bushwick and Williamsburg.
The Office of Nightlife's new website now provides hospitality professionals and consumers with resources and guidelines pertaining to every aspect of NYC's nightlife, divided into four categories — Office of Nightlife, Nightlife Business, Nightlife Workers and Nightlife Community.
The website walks nightlife business owners and operators through all the necessary steps to open and run a nightlife venue, including licensing and permitting, waste removal and sound guidelines, and connects them to relevant City services. Nightlife workers can learn about workers' rights including topics like paid sick leave, discrimination and freelance worker rights.
"When I created the Office of Nightlife my hope was to establish an avenue for all stakeholders involved in nightlife to be able to get the help they need in creating a vibrant nightlife for the City," said Espinal. "From local communities who deserve a decent quality of life, to businesses who are trying to do the right thing, this office will be there. These steps will create the opportunity for the city to stop bleeding out cultural spaces and creatives while supporting our businesses."