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The 'night mayor' is coming: City committee approves new nightlife strategy for Ottawa

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A new job is coming to Ottawa, tasked at making the city’s nightlife more vibrant and attractive.

The city's finance and corporate services committee gave the green light Tuesday to the Ottawa Nightlife Economic Action Plan, which includes the creation of a “night commissioner.”

City staff presented a report to committee outlining the action plan that aims to support the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. economy and nightlife in Ottawa, specifically leisure, live entertainment, and cultural activities during that 12-hour period.

“We heard loud and clear from our consultations, that we need three things for our nightlife: we need support, we need coordination, and we centralized promotion. The role of the night commissioner will be to achieve all of those things,” says Jamie Hurst with the city of Ottawa.

Hurst was part of the city staff presentation that laid out what is involved in the role. She says. “They will provide support to the night life economy, they will provide coordination amongst all of the stakeholders that are engaged in the nightlife. So, those who work in the nightlife, manage the night, and those who enjoy the night. They will also work on developing that centralized promotion, so that Ottawa’s already very vibrant nightlife is known not only for Ottawa residents, but also people elsewhere from outside of Ottawa.”

Who is perfect for the job? Hurst says they are looking for someone who is innovative, creative, and a strong communicator.

“First and foremost we are looking for someone who enjoys our nightlife and have experience in Ottawa’s nightlife,” she says.

Staff say their research determined in 2019 that more than $1.5 billion was spent on nightlife activities between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Ottawa mayor Mark Sutcliffe says he approves the idea of the new commissioner. “I think it is great,” he says. “I think Ottawa is a very exciting and vibrant place, there is lots of evidence that there is a lot of night life in Ottawa, there are great restaurants, unlike maybe 20 to 30 years ago, there are better entertainment venues, there are more concerts than there were 20 to 30 years ago.”

Sutcliffe says Ottawa no longer deserves the nickname “the city that fun forgot.”

“All of those things that once were said about Ottawa no longer apply. I think there is so much more we can do as a community to promote nightlife and music and entertainment. I am excited about the idea of having someone that will devote their full-time attention to that.”

This will be a full-time position and could be on the job as early as 2024. Sutcliffe says he looks forward to working with the new night commissioner.

Ottawa is not the first city to implement this role. Cities like New York City, Amsterdam, London, England and Washington, D.C. have created a “night mayor” role.

Salah Czapary is the “night mayor” for Washington, D.C. He says, “The nightlife and the cultural economy traditionally happens when government is closed and so there is a need to have an advocate and a liaison that is not a regulatory authority to really bring issues that are facing the nightlife economy to relevant players in government.”

Czapary says like Ottawa, Washington, D.C. has had to rethink nightlife activities after COVID-19 and more public servants working remotely. “I learned that someone said Ottawa was the city that fun forget, this is a chance to break away from that saying,” he says.

Czapary says the job is about making nightlife for everyone, including families. “Nightlife and social economy is more than just bars and clubs, it is live music, is it festivals, restaurants, it really represents the best of humanity, it is the coming together and sharing of experiences. I think even in Ottawa there is untapped potential, and it will be the job of whoever takes up this new position within the city government to unleash that potential.”

City of Ottawa staff have still not determined what the salary of the night commissioner will be.

The plan needs full council approval on May 10.

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