Thursday, June 14, 2018

Councilmember Todd proposes Office of Nightlife for nightlife and community relations; he answers some questions about it

This is interesting: last year, Ward 4 councilmember Brandon Todd proposed an Office of Nightlife to help with community and nightlife relations. The Post says Todd described it as "a liaison between government, community leaders and business owners to ensure that all residents benefit from the proliferation of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues in the nation's capitol in recent years."

Other cities have similar programs, sometimes called a Night Mayor or Night Czar.

More recently, the office received some money from the city's budget, and Todd has talking about the idea at events and meetings, so I asked for more information. Here's a few questions the councilmember answered via email. The full bill text is here.

What are your goals for it? It seems focused mostly on residential neighbors’ concerns, is that the case?

The purpose of the Office of Nightlife and Culture is to serve as a liaison between nighttime economy establishments, residents living near such establishments, and the District government. This includes a variety of responsibilities. The office will serve as a point of contact for establishments to help them connect with District government agencies on everything from consumer complaints, to problems with District government agencies, to obtaining licenses, permits, or approvals. It will also serve as the intermediary when any issues arise between the District government, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, residents, and establishments, such as noise, littler, parking, or public safety. The office will also provide input to other agencies on matters important to the nighttime economy, identify and provide information on best practices in the nighttime economy sector, and work with the Commission on Nightlife and Culture (also created by this legislation). The Office of Nightlife and Culture will focus on building a vibrant nighttime economy for the District of Columbia that operates smoothly in the context of each neighborhood. They will serve as a resource to both the community and small businesses for any and all nightlife-related concerns. They will help bring more jobs to the District, and expand opportunities for residents to engage in fun, safe nighttime activities, which is so much more than just bars and clubs, but also restaurants, art, culture, music, and fashion.

How does it benefit owners of nightlife businesses and people who go to them?

The Office will benefit owners by providing a single point of contact on all matters related to their establishment. The Office will be open during nighttime hours when other Government agencies are not open, and will be able to help with obtaining permits or getting other concerns addressed by DC Government agencies. Patrons will benefit from the office advising establishments on safety and security best practices, including training programs to prevent sexual harassment and assault.

What kind of budget would it have?
I am delighted to report that we have secured $291,000 in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget for the Office of Nightlife and Culture. The funds will be set aside until the establishing legislation is passed into law. These funds provide for three full time staffers, including a Director, Staff Assistant, and Community Liaison, plus $60,000 to stand up the office.

Would it have enforcement abilities or legal authority?

No, this office would not have enforcement authority. Those functions would continue to be the responsibility of the respective agency. For example, the Metropolitan Police Department will still be responsible for addressing public safety concerns, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs will still process building permits, etc… The Office of Nightlife and Culture will just serve as a central liaison between establishments, the community, and the Government.

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