London is becoming a 24 hour city. With the (hopefully) upcoming night tube services and an array of bars, clubs and restaurants on offer to cater to the capital's night-time economy, we decided to take a look at how we compare with other cities in the 24 hour stakes.
The Dutch capital is possibly unique in that it has its very own Night Mayor, Mirik Milan. While Amsterdam isn't a 24 hour city, it does have a pretty lively nightlife. Mirik is very positive about the benefits of the night-time economy and hopes to create a 24 hour area within the city where demand can be met. We asked him about the night-time economy and how his role first came about:
The first Night Mayor got installed in 2003 because nobody in city hall had any clue what was going on in nightlife and where they should make laws and legislation on. I started in 2012. Since 2014 we’re a non-profit foundation who gives direct advice to Mayor of Amsterdam and city council. We work together with all the stakeholders in night-time industry to help ensure a dynamic nightlife in the city now and in the future.
Has it made a difference having a dedicated person for the night-time economy? Mirik told us a lot has changed since the appointment was created. In the last two years, 10 bars and clubs have been given 24 hour licences, and in a trial run, bars and clubs on Rembrandtsplein (one of the city's busiest squares at night) can stay open until 6am and 8am respectively. Mirik says the key to this is getting stakeholders working together and taking a pragmatic view of the pros and cons of a 24 hour city.
While Amsterdam doesn't yet have 24 hour public transport, it's small enough to be able to get around by bike and the short distances mean taxi fares aren't expensive. GVB provides integrated metro, tram and bus services in the city, which run until 12.30am though there are limited night bus services.
The licencing authorities are generally pro- night-time economy and have a genuine desire to improve it but are keen to ensure that residents don't suffer as a result.
A thriving night-time economy has major benefits, not least the creation of jobs for young people, and a true 24 hour city could also ease pressure on attractions and other public services during the day. And there's little doubt that providing a diverse, vibrant and safe nightlife is a big tourist attraction. Amsterdam receives around 4.6m visitors every year, many of them attracted to the clubs and bars on Rembrandtsplein and Leidseplein along with the city's many festivals, museums and the red light district. Mirik told us:
For Amsterdam we’re hoping to create a 24 hour area. I think we could create something really phenomenal and it gives the city a new dynamic state.
A city famed for its nightlife, Berlin saw more than 28m visitors last year. We spoke to Lutz Leichsenring, board member of Clubcommission Berlin and member of Berlin's Chamber of Commerce and Musicboard to get the low down on the German capital.
Closing hours for bars and clubs are much more fluid here, and Lutz told us why a night-time economy is vital to increase tourism:
Many clubs open on Fridays and close Monday evening. Also many creative people move here, because there are fewer regulations. For many people this is why Berlin is the city of freedom.
Unlike Amsterdam and London, Berlin has 24 hour public transport system and 24 hour restaurants in the central districts.
The licencing authorities are generally pro-night-time economy, though Lutz told us it's fairly dependent on the area, describing some districts where a lot of bars and clubs are as "a bit secretive".
Like any other city, Berlin has crime associated with the night-time economy, namely drug dealers in some areas (RAW and Görlitzer Park) and pickpockets. Residents have also complained about litter and noise, which sparked the fair.kiez project, which aims to build an understanding between Berlin’s night-time economy, local residents and those enjoying the night life. The team use artists and street mediators to interact with Berlin's "guests of the night" (we love that description) and keep the peace. Watch one of their videos.
We asked Lutz what he thought of 24 hour cities:
The best thing happened to Berlin — besides the fall of the wall!
Visitors to Hackney might find their night-time partying curtailed — the local authority is consulting on a change to licensing policy that could see new pubs and bars forced to close at 11pm during the week, and on midnight on weekends. Alan Miller, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), told us more about licencing authorities and their approach to Hackney's night-time economy:
As in our recent report, Forward In To The Night, many local authorities have a schizophrenic relationship with their attitudes to the night-time economy. Most recognise at least somewhat, the positive economic benefits. However, they are riddled with negative notions and assumptions from an old script that has reignited around negatives.
The NTIA estimates that the night-time economy accounts for nearly 8% of the UK's employment, bringing in revenue of £66bn. They work with local authorities and aim to influence policy on the night-time economy. The Met's and Hackney's claim is that the night-time economy increases crime. Not so, says Miller:
New ways that policing presents how successful it is, based on 'stats', has collided with a huge slashing of their resources. So, police will use 'crime stats' to say the night time economy 'causes crime' — often things like mobile phones being lost and reported stolen to get insurance paid. Venues are then seen as 'crime creators' rather than contributors of jobs, creativity and array of other benefits.
Of course, the recently-postponed launch of night tube services is a key factor in the success of London's night-time economy. The sprawling nature of the capital has made it difficult (not to mention expensive) for people to get home after a night out. Miller compares London with the night tube to New York, saying:
The night tube will have an enormous impact on London and the increasingly popular idea of it being a 24 hour city. In NYC, a fantastic place to live, work and play, the 24 hour transport means that all residents, visitors and businesses benefit. People can move from the outer areas to central easily and continuously.
He also cites a potential boost to productivity, especially in the service industries and media, tech and creative companies. One of Hackney's problems has been the clash between a thriving night-time economy and the needs of residents. Miller's belief is that 'smart collaboration between businesses and councils' can alleviate residents' concerns and the impact of the borough's night life on their lives. Should London follow other cities in the pursuit of a more lively night-time economy? Miller says yes:
From Liverpool to Manchester, Glasgow and London one only needs to look at the impact of having a strong and successful night-time economy to see benefits. New investment, innovation, culture and fun.
In contrast to Amsterdam and Berlin, Sydney's night-time economy has been hit by a 'lockout zone', introduced in 2014 after two men died in assaults. The city's previously free-wheeling nightlife has been restricted, with 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks at hotels, bars and nightclubs, no alcohol sales from shops after 10pm, a freeze on approvals for new and existing licences, banning orders and draconian fines. We talked to Wade Cawood, co-founder of Pulse Radio about it.
Since this new system was introduced in 2014, thousands of jobs have been lost, over 100 businesses have closed down and millions of dollars have been taken out of the economy. The entire Kings Cross suburb, which for years was the hub of entertainment, is now a ghost town.
Cawood believes that the lockout has cost Sydney more than A$10bn per year as tourists go to other cities where they can party longer. He also claims police aggression and 'intimidating behaviour' has put people off going out.
But what has the effect been on crime in the city? Opponents of the lockout laws say it has pushed crime into the suburbs — the Sydney Morning Herald published a heat map showing 'hotspots' of violence and how it's moved since the laws were introduced.
As with everything in life, there are winners and losers. Some estate agents have reported an increase in interest from people wanting to move back into the city centre following the closure of many late night venues.
In common with many other cities, Sydney's urban train system doesn't run all night, but there is a NightRide bus service and 24/7 taxis.
Cawood echoes other calls for an end to lockout and self-regulation for Sydney's night-time visitors. He told us:
I think it's [the night-time economy] a great thing. People need to be treated as adults and be allowed to make their own choices. There is an element of the public that prefers the day-time and the other half prefer the night-time. It's that simple. To be a true cosmopolitan city you need a 24 hour economy.
It's pretty clear from the people we've spoken to for this article that a night-time economy presents its own challenges, but the most successful ones seem to be where the local authorities are prepared to work with club owners for the benefit of residents and visitors.
Alan Miller believes that a thriving night-time economy is priceless to London, and now is the time to get the police and politicians to understand its value to employment, the creative scene and making London stand out as the place to go when the sun goes down.