The New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment released its first comprehensive economic impact study of local nightlife on Thursday (Jan. 24) and its results add new validity to the time-worn motto of "the city that never sleeps."
The meaty, 80-page study coincides with recent moves by Mayor Bill de Blasio to improve New York's late-night industry: He minted the first-ever Office of Nightlife in September 2017, helmed by senior executive director Ariel Palitz. And the new study's findings cement nightlife as not just a core component of the New York identity, but a vital economic driver.
With more than 25,000 nightlife establishments across its five boroughs, contributing $697 million in local tax revenue, New York City’s nightlife supports 299,000 jobs, $13.1 billion in employee compensation and $35.1 billion in total economic output, according to results. Nightlife is growing faster than the rest of the local economy, with nightlife-related jobs and wages rising at annual rates of 5 and 8 percent, respectively — compared to 3 and 4 percent in the city overall. To calculate data, "nightlife" was defined as activity between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and divided into five categories: bars, food services, venues, arts and culture, and sports and recreation. The data was complemented by more than 1,300 interviews and surveys conducted with nightlife workers, owners and patrons.
Notably, the study offers a promising outlook for New York music venues, even as iconic establishments like OUTPUT and Highline Ballroom close their doors. In the past five years, Brooklyn and Queens have each seen 10 percent annual growth in number of venues, compared to citywide growth of 4 percent. As of 2016, there were 2,400 venues (encompassing both traditional concert and DIY performance spaces) citywide. Overall, New York venues are responsible for 19,900 jobs, $373 million in wages, and $1.2 billion in direct economic output.
The new statistics, presented by Shira Gans, senior executive director of policy and programs for the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, follow a March 2017 report on New York's music industry showing that 20 percent of small venues had closed over the past 15 years. "That was obviously a distressing data point," Gans says. "In the same way, I think when you go out in places like Bushwick or Ridgewood, you’re feeling that vibrancy of the music scene coming back, and now we have a data point to show that."
Palitz, a former nightclub owner herself, says the study marks a new era of improvement for New York's nocturnal crowd. "Nightlife is a really powerful economic driver, and important cultural industry that deserves the respect, attention and support of the city," she explains. "[The study] really does help us to lay down the groundwork to inform the office, as well as the city, more exactly and definitively what a major part of the economy nightlife is."
"We're looking at this data as a roadmap to what really needs to be addressed," she adds. "In the past, the presumption of nightlife has been that it’s in the dark. But in actuality, it’s really the other 9 to 5. And it’s a huge part of the economy that needs to be taken seriously with respect and support to make sure it thrives and survives."
The new study follows the Office of Nightlife's first major report, unveiled last June.
Other thought-provoking findings:
— Food service is described as the "backbone" of the city's nightlife economy, contributing the majority of jobs, employee compensation and economic output.
— Of all five boroughs, Brooklyn has witnessed the biggest explosion in nightlife, with 5,500 total establishments as of 2016 and a 5 percent annual growth rate. That's pretty significant, compared to the city's overall nightlife establishment growth rate of 2 percent.
— But Queens nightlife is also on the rise. With 4,800 nightlife establishments in 2016, the borough also outpaced overall city nightlife growth, with annualized growth rates for jobs and wages at 7 and 9 percent respectively.
— Local artists are facing challenges, but they aren't giving up. Among 187 artists and entertainers surveyed, 80 percent cited lack of income stability as a moderate or major challenge and 68 percent said they've been adversely impacted by establishment closures and reduced hours. Even so, 60 percent said they are employed full-time in their craft and 79 percent indicated that they'll still work in the nightlife industry in three years.
— Between 2013 and 2017, 32 percent of all taxi and for-hire vehicle rides (like Uber and Lyft) were nightlife-related. Ride use between the "prime hours" of 12-4 a.m. grew 12 percent annually during that period, with some neighborhoods seeing increases of over 300 percent in pick-ups during those hours. The largest growth in ride usage is happening outside of Manhattan: Brooklyn saw increases in Bushwick (92 percent annualized growth during prime hours) and Williamsburg (33 percent).
Read the study in full here.