‘Night mayor’ could help Edmonton boost restaurant and entertainment sector

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Edmontonians struggling to bring the streets to life at night could have the help of a ‘night mayor’ to defend their industries by next year.

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Some members from sectors that include the hospitality and live entertainment industries say they have nowhere to turn for help outside of weekday opening hours at City Hall . But that could change as the city and Explore Edmonton work on plans to support the nighttime economy, potentially including a lawyer or “night mayor,” who would be available beyond normal office hours.

Brent Oliver, who books events for five live event venues in Edmonton, says a dedicated nighttime economy office would help those businesses caught jumping through hoops without a dedicated municipal resource at the moment. The municipality must find a way to support them, he said.

“If you can make (the night economy) more robust, more secure, more economically viable and have a champion in town or champions in the office, I think that will be good for the city in the long run,” he said. he declares.

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“A night economy office can ‘point the finger’ and you have to consider that with a vibrant economy, we have to populate those places with those kinds of businesses.”

Oliver and Business Improvement Area representatives told the council last month that such an office would help the after-hours industry address challenges and advocate for ways to address issues both inside and outside the control of the municipality.

For example, a place where Oliver works with Downtown sometimes has to deal with social unrest that happens near a nearby LRT station at night. Their only recourse is to call the police.

“I don’t think it solves anything, it just keeps people away for a while,” he said, adding he would like to see a more coordinated approach involving social services.

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Other municipalities, including Toronto, Vancouver and New York, have set up similar offices to help businesses that operate in the evening. According to a staff report, the post of night mayor would be largely symbolic. A municipal councilor or other person could be appointed to defend the industry — this would not involve an election.

At the executive committee meeting on June 29, the council. Jennifer Rice said she was looking forward to seeing what the policy will look like and finding ways to support the sector.

“If we’re looking for the opportunity for our city to recover from the pandemic, looking for economic growth and recovery, then this overnight economy is one way to do that,” she said after the meeting. “I think this is another opportunity to explore if there are different economic opportunities for us to move the city forward.”

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Com. Erin Rutherford told advisers she had worked in local restaurants to pay for college so she knew how important, and also vulnerable, the job can be: ‘I absolutely think it’s an opportunity to further improve this (night saving).”

Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, said those businesses could use the support.

“Our live events industry or our night economy, our hospitality industry, has been one of the hardest hit,” she said following the meeting. “I think we recognize that there’s a huge gap right now between the daytime economy and the nighttime economy in terms of the resources they need, and without having (one)…it’s not going to straighten out on its own and it’s not going to be as dynamic an industry as it could be.

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@laurby

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