It would take a world champion wowser to declare last weekend’s CubaDupa festival anything but an outstanding success, replete with two days of street food, live music, street artists, and throngs of happy attendees.
If such a po-faced complaint were to be made it would probably focus on the number of drunk people wandering the streets late at night, and the menace they represent (noise, fights, minor crime and so on).
It is a familiar argument, one recently trotted out when Wellington City Council sought to keep bar closing times at 5.00am. Under pressure from police, community interest groups, and residents, the city’s leadership caved, and set the closing time for bars to the national default of 4.00am.
Whether this reduces or simply shifts the incidence of crime and nuisance associated with late night drinking is debateable (UK evidence suggests the latter). However, it is interesting to note that other jurisdictions are embracing their late night revellers instead of harrowing them out of nightlife districts.
Amsterdam is a prime example. The city has appointed a night mayor whose role it is to ensure that the city’s economy keeps pumping long after the sun has set. The job of the night mayor is also to smooth over tensions with residents and day time businesses who may be affected by the less than desirable (*ahem*) spill overs from those who may have imbibed too much.
Amsterdam’s bar licensing is an example of how the scheme works in practice. By allowing establishments in a specific area to stay open around the clock, noise is concentrated in parts of the city. And since there are set closing times, patrons leave clubs and bars in dribs and drabs, which is much quieter and less troublesome than disgorging a mass of inebriated patrons onto the streets all at once.
It is an idea that is also catching elsewhere. Night mayors have been appointed in Paris, Toulouse, and Zurich, and is being considered in London and Berlin.
As CubaDupa demonstrated, a vibrant nightlife is a vital part of what makes Wellington a great place to live, and Amsterdam shows there are clever ways to manage the negative spill over effects. With local government elections just around the corner, if someone ran for night mayor they would certainly get my vote.