Six Lessons from NYC’s First Nightlife Mayor

When Ariel Palitz tells people she’s New York City’s first nightlife mayor, they usually respond, “That’s great.” And then: “What does that mean?”

Some imagine that this role involves going barhopping and staying outdoors until dawn. But it’s a day job, and Miss Palitz acts as liaison, peacekeeper, educator, etc.

The office of nightlife is created by Mayor Bill de Blasio to defuse the strained relationship between the bar and club owners and the city. After all, it was illegal to dance in a New York City bar not too long ago. Ms. Palitz herself, a former bar owner, helped open up new minds when she arrived in 2018. Her team programs created and initiatives to support business development and promote safety and harm reduction, and mediate conflicts between businesses and residents.

Ms. Palitz recently announced that she will be leaving her job, giving her a unique opportunity to watch as the city is besieged by the coronavirus pandemic, and when it returns to work.

In a pink velvet booth at a seven-story hotel bar above Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Palitz, a native New Yorker, recently described what she discovered about the city — and about myself.

Ms. Palitz, who meditates regularly and wears a bracelet featuring the Lion of Judah, has developed a philosophical-progressive ideology about nightlife: For her, it motivates creativity, cultivate identity and strengthen social relationships.

Yes, New York City nightlife is a $35.1 billion industry, supporting 300,000 jobs and generating $700 million in local tax revenue each year. However, she emphasizes, it is not just an economic engine.

“It goes deeper than that,” she says, pointing to the cultural innovation and community building involved, from jazz clubs to hip-hop dance parties and more.

“That’s the beauty of New York — there’s always room for you and you can always find your people,” she said. A love of nightlife is more than just hanging out. “It’s about a love of life,” she speaks.

Her office has created handbooks and checklists to help businesses navigate new rules during the pandemic and advocates for new policies that streamline the process of opening a bar or box. night. It started the Narcan Behind Every Bar campaign to Raise awareness about the opioid overdose crisis. And she tried to change the way the city looked at people who came alive at night.

In the past, she says, “the whole approach is to enforce a reaction – limited without any appreciation or recognition for what the industry contributes to the economy, identity and culture.” chemical.”

When appointed to her position in 2018, Ms. Palitz said that “you cannot crush the culture — or subculture — in New York.” She was right: Covid halted some of the fun, but not all. “One of the biggest challenges we face is getting in touch with all the people who are still communicating underground,” she said last week. “And especially when you’re suffering, people want to be together.”

New York City lost about 4 percent of the restaurant and arts and entertainment businesses as a result of the pandemic, and employment in those industries is still down about 6% from their pre-pandemic peak figures from the New York State Department of Labor. Some places used to be open late is now closing earlier.

Palitz believes the recovery is continuing: “I think we are still accelerating,” she said. “We are still recovering.”

New York’s approach to the nightlife industry, as the most populous city in the United States and a magnet for people from all walks of life, has piqued the curiosity of officials. positions from other cities.

“We were at the Danish Consulate two days ago,” Ms. Palitz said. “Next month, I will go to Sydney. I just got back from London.” She noted that the New York Nightlife Office was established as part of a global movement, “and that movement is rapidly escalating.”

Local officials and law enforcement often have antagonistic relationships with bar and club owners. In New York City, examples include the Tavern Law, which prohibits dancing in public places without a pub license; it was enacted in 1926 and revived and enforced by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in the 1990s before finally getting abolished in 2017.

“I really think we are at a very important moment,” Ms. Palitz said, “where this is about a renovation, a reorganization and a new approach.” Her technique aims to see places and governments as partners, “not rivals, because that’s the only way we can really grow.”

After opening The first licensed marijuana store in Manhattan In December, the cannabis scene in New York City is continuing to change, change, and evolve. “Social consumption, social lounge – that will be a new frontier in nightlife,” Ms. Palitz said.

Of course, she said, “this is what people have been doing for years underground.” But legalization will change the landscape.

That said, alcohol will still be part of the nightlife. Ms. Palitz said based on conversations with the State Liquor Authority, that the number of applications for new liquor licenses had increased. And, she mused, during the pandemic, soon-to-be bar owners have time to daydream: “Well, if I owned a bar, what would happen? I DO?”

Before she started working for the mayor’s office, Ms. Palitz’s daily life was quite local: She lived upstairs to the Lower East Side bar she owned. She joked: “Weddings and funerals are the only things that keep me off the block.

But on her travels as nightlife mayor, she discovered: “I learned that I love all five counties,” she says. And specifically: “I love Staten Island. The view!” she exclaimed. “They have great pizza. You take the ferry and you pass by the Statue of Liberty. What an extraordinary experience — and a way of life!”

Mrs Palitz, 52, appeared shy about what came next. A self-described Jew-Rasta-Buddhist, whose childhood memories include watching her parents throw sumptuous dinner parties before they arrived at Studio 54, Ms. Palitz plans to attach bundle as an industry resource and advisor. But first, after her last day at work, in April, “you should be able to find me in Bali in a few weeks,” she said. Then work wise? Nothing is official yet. “The sky is the limit,” she said.

Still, it’s clear that she’s still an entrepreneur, part vivacious. Her eyes light up at the mention of a club she wishes she could join: Paradise Garage, which opened in 1977, less than 10 years after the club. Stonewall Rebellion, and closed in 1987. It operated while the sodomy laws were still being enforced in New York City.

Space is a magnet for LGBTQ people in New York, who have found freedom by losing themselves on the dance floor. “It also shows people’s determination and perseverance to be who they are — and risk being seen as illegal,” Ms. Palitz said. She would love to be there, to see “the magic in the room they must have created.”

Because even after a while in power, the dance floor beckons. A club with a good sound system and a great DJ? “That’s my church. That’s my synagogue. It’s my spiritual place,” she said. “It was my perfect evening.”

“When you’re one with everyone in that room and you’re moving in the same rhythm — that lifts your soul,” she adds. “You walk out feeling better than when you walked in.”


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