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What is the Night Time Economy and who needs it?

Ingrid Kindbom - Fort Lauderdale, FL

The nighttime economy is any social, cultural, educational, and economic activity that takes place after 6 pm, including dining, arts, music, entertainment, festivals, events, sporting events, dancing, movies, bowling, theater, 24-hour gyms, tourist attractions, health care, and other industries and economic activities that are open and operate at night. 

Who needs it? 

Cities and communities that want to thrive and provide comprehensive services to residents and visitors need a vibrant nighttime economy. The nighttime economy is a powerful tool to shape a city’s desirability, attractiveness, and prosperity, and it is a key part of its image, culture, and soul. 

People want to live and spend time in environments that are safe, make them feel good, and ensure wellness. There are many factors that contribute to a safe and healthy environment, but one key factor is our need to socialize and interact with others. Our wellbeing is dependent on meeting people, talking to others, laughing with peers, getting together for a bite to eat, taking a Zumba class, or watching a show together. People seek out vibrant communities that provide environments that stimulate interaction with others. Vibrant communities bring people together.

Humans are inherently social creatures. Thousands of years ago, Italian master builders, engineers, and architects painstakingly worked for centuries to build Rome, a city that would provide safety, comfort, and well-being for its population. They built structures to provide the city with water and sewer, roads for transportation and communication, sports arenas, and theaters for entertainment. The Roman Forum, the marketplace designed to be the public gathering place where trade and public meetings were held, was strategically placed in the center of it all. 

Of course, community needs have evolved since ancient times, but the basic principle of a vibrant, people-focused community is still the same; to create an inclusive, well-functioning, appealing, environment where people want to live, work, play, and stay.  

It’s like Night and Day

Our daytime environment with all of the offices, schools, transportation options, and retail activities is typically well planned and organized, but the nighttime environment has not traditionally received the same attention. Whether it is due to ignorance or lack of attention, the night time economy is usually treated differently than the daytime, with a focus on increased restrictions, such as sound management  and licensing requirements to balance the existence of an often-perceived noisy and rowdy night time economy with quality-of-life factors for residents.

A city that understands the value of a dynamic night time economy as part of  a well-planned and a balanced 24-hour economy holds the key to success in attracting both residents and visitors.  It is essential to recognize that it’s not just partying that makes a night time economy, but other evening and night activities as well. After work we go to the gym, rush to get a haircut, hurry to get to night school in time, or run to get all the errands done before closing time. 

The part of our population that is employed in the afterhours establishments that allow us to workout at 10 pm, eat at a restaurant after the workout, or shop at midnight, is an essential part of our night time economy. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2017-2018 approximately 23 million people, or about 16% of the workforce worked non-traditional hours, such as evening shifts, night shifts, and irregular schedules.    

According to an American Time Use Survey conducted by BLS in 2015 the most common professions that work in the evening, between 6pm and 11pm are:

  • Arts, design, entertainment, sports, media (i.e., musicians, directors, broadcasting personnel)

  • Food preparation and service (i.e., servers, bartenders, kitchen staff)

  • Personal care and service (i.e., hairdressers, fitness trainers, skincare specialists)

  • Sales and related (i.e., retail sales workers, real estate agents, cashiers)

The most common professions that works through the night, between 11 pm and 3 am are:

  • Healthcare practitioners (i.e., doctors, nurses, and paramedics)

  • Production (i.e., bakers, assembly line workers, machinists)

  • Protective service/public safety (i.e., firefighters, police officers, security guards)

  • Transportation and material moving (i.e., truck drivers, air traffic controllers)

A Liveable City needs a Night Time Economy

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) creates an annual Global Liveability Index where they rank 173 cities based on over 30 quantitative and qualitative factors across five broad categories: stability, healthcare, education, culture and environment, and infrastructure. The top 2023 cities are :

  1. Vienna, Austria

  2. Copenhagen, Denmark

  3. Melbourne, Australia

  4. Sydney, Australia

  5. Vancouver, Canada

Vienna retained its top position in 2023 with an index of 98.4 out of the maximum possible 100  as a result of the strong combination of stability, good infrastructure, strong education and healthcare services, and plenty of culture and entertainment.  

If we look at the categories the cities in this study are scored upon, an effective night time economy certainly influences the liveability of any city as it is a resource to:

  • Create jobs and retain a workforce 

  • Attract entrepreneurs 

  • Improve public health

  • Increase attractiveness

  • Nurture artistic and creative industries

  • Develop a culture

  • Create a brand

In case you are curious, Honolulu was the highest ranked US city, at number 25 on the list. Los Angeles ranked 57, and San Diego, 61, both dropped 17 places since last year.  

What does it take? 

If your city hasn’t embraced the night time economy as a critical resource for your community’s overall sociability and prosperity, opportunities are left on the table.It’s just like Rome, it will not be built in one day (or night), but with a progressive, well-defined, inclusive, dynamic, and agile strategy and approach, that includes collaboration with residents, business owners, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders it can become one of your city’s most enjoyable and successful sociability initiatives.

~Ingrid Kindbom Fort Lauderdale, FL

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