Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The Power of New York’s Nightlife Reputation
By Gamal Hennessy
Time Out Publishing is releasing a book this week entitled “World’s Greatest Cities”. In the book, New York was singled out as the best city in the world when it comes to things like architecture, arts and quality of life. While most New Yorkers might feel nonchalant about this title, nightlife natives should take note of the impact our nightlife has on the city’s reputation and the impact of that reputation on our lives. The writers of this book singled out New York above all others because of our 24 hour culture. It is nightlife that gives New York its unique culture. Any moves to suppress that culture will have a direct effect on the economy and prosperity of the entire city.
Reputation for tourists
New York is known as ‘the city that never sleeps’. That reputation draws millions of tourists to the city every year. But when visitors think of a metropolis opened around the clock, what do you think pops into their minds? Do you think they are dreaming about a 24 hour Duane Reade? I don’t think so. Is it possible that people fly into New York from Sydney and Bali and Johannesburg to visit the all night bodega? Probably not. The concept that draws people to the city that never sleeps is the idea that we work all day and we party all night. Where do we party? If you have to ask that question, please close this page and visit a different site.
In 2004 a research organization called ARA conducted a study on the impact of nightlife on the New York’s economy. ARA found that 77% of all New York visitors identified visiting a nightclub or bar as one of their primary reasons for visiting the city. This means that almost three quarters of all our tourists came to New York to experience our nightlife. How much money would be lost from incoming tour groups, business conventions like the New York Auto Show, award ceremonies like the MTV music awards, and artistic events like Fashion Week if people decided that New York was no better than any other city when it comes to nightlife? It is hard to imagine how the reputation of New York would remain the same if people came to the conclusion that nightlife in New York, Cleveland, and Spokane were substantially similar.
Reputation for talent
It’s not just temporary occupants of the city that are lured by our nightlife. Every year job recruiters go around the country and around the world to find the top people from the top schools and try to lure them to New York. Recruits are seduced with money and the chance to work in the beating heart of their industry. They are also drawn in with images of high class bars, private parties and mega clubs. TV shows filmed in New York like Sex and the City, and Gossip Girl often have young workers hooked before the recruiter even shows up. People want to work in New York to get access to the nightlife.
If New York didn’t have the reputation for nightlife, how many young, bright people would choose to move to here to pursue careers? Other cities have cheaper rents, more space and other advantages. If New York isn’t unique when it comes to bars and clubs, what is the point of suffering thru all the difficulties of making it here? Other cities like Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are trying to use a vibrant nightlife to attract the best and brightest. Can we afford to lose this pool of talent and still be the center of the universe?
It is not coincidental that financial networks like CNBC are focusing on the Time Out book. A city’s reputation can directly influence the economic power of an area. New York City is central to several different industries. We are not dependent on nightlife or any other single business the way Detroit, Orlando or Las Vegas are. But nightlife is still a vital part of the overall dynamic. NIMBY community groups, opportunistic politicians and other anti-nightlife advocates can willfully ignore the contribution that nightlife makes to New York. If we follow their lead or allow them to make decisions for us, we are going to lose more than the title of the best city in the world. We will lose the reputation that drives our economy.