NYC Office of Nightlife Shares First Report Finding Robust, Growing Industry

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Nightlife was divided into five categories: bars, food services, venues, arts and culture, and sports and recreation, with a focus on job and wage data.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio created the Office of Nightlife last September and on Friday (June 8) shared the department’s first major report, illustrating of a robust, growing industry, particularly in the outer boroughs.

The findings were presented by Shira Gans, senior executive director of policy and programs for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, as part of New York Music Month, a celebration of the city’s musical culture now in its second year. The full report will be published later this summer and follows a similar study on the economic impact of music in New York released last March.

Nightlife was divided into five categories: bars, food services, venues, arts and culture, and sports and recreation, with a focus on job and wage data. Per the info, nightlife supports $29 billion of economic activity, 250,000 jobs and $11 billion in wages. It’s also growing more quickly than the state’s economy as a whole, with jobs increasing at a 5 percent rate in comparison to 3 percent across the board, while wages are up by 8 percent compared to 4 percent. In order to calculate data, economic activity in these sectors between 5 p.m. and 6 a.m. was examined.

"Everybody knows that New York City is the city that never sleeps, it’s the nightlife capital of the world," said Gans. "But now we have some data to back that up."

The findings noted that food service is "the backbone of New York City’s nightlife economy," as it is responsible for 73 percent of jobs, 68 percent of wages and 63 percent of economic output. 

Arts and culture was deemed an especially productive sector, though it only accounts for 9 percent of jobs, it comprises 13 percent of all wages and 16 percent of economic output. Venues made up 10 percent of jobs but just 6 percent of wages -- on which Gans noted the annual average wage for a venue worker was just $19,000 per year, qualifying many of those workers might not be doing so as a full-time profession.

Gans noted that when presenting the music study findings at the 2017 conference she revealed that over the last 15 years, 20 percent of New York’s small venues closed. She said, however, that over the previous five years there had been a 4 percent growth in venues opening in the city.

Brooklyn and Queens posted consistently strong numbers as they’ve developed into cultural hubs, with the former posting 11 percent job growth and the latter at 8 percent, both above the broader city numbers.

Justin Kalifowitz, founder of NY is Music, a New York-based music advocacy organization which co-produces New York Music Month with MOME, said, "What makes a discussion of New York’s nightlife so important and personal to our industry is that it’s not just about entertaining people, not just that venues have been breeding ground for countless genres, but it’s also the entry point for so many people who are passionate about music. From people in high school who go to their first shows, to rising artists, it’s the real first step that so many of us take."
 
Kalifowitz also highlighted the work of Rafael Espinal council member of the state’s 37th District, who introduced the bill that repealed the Prohibition-era Cabaret Law, which had prohibited dancing and musical entertainment without a specific license in New York establishments.  

Other speakers included Charley Magrew, head of marketing for Bowery Presents, who spoke on how the wealth of different sized venues has allowed the company to provide space for artists such as Interpol and Sam Smith as their careers grow, and Dhruv Chopra, partner at Popgun Presents and founder of Elsewhere, a new venue in Bushwick. He called music venues "the fundamental ecosystem for cultural exchange," and stressed the importance of providing a safe, encouraging creative space for people of different backgrounds.