For a city with countless universities, millions of residents and a lower median age than the country as a whole, it’s surprising that Vancouver grinds to a halt after 9 p.m.
“I don’t think anybody is really being well served by the nighttime economy,” Nate Sabine, an executive on the board of Hospitality Vancouver Association (HVA), told the Straight over the phone. “If we’re going to actually be a world-class city, then we need a world-class nightlife that is safer and more inclusive and innovative and more vibrant than it is right now.”
That’s why HVA, alongside businesses organizations Destination Vancouver and Downtown Van, have launched a consultation on what the local night economy needs.
As Sabine explained, the nighttime economy is about much more than just clubs and bars: it’s everyone who works “the other nine to five.”
“The nighttime economy is people from hotel workers and taxi drivers, to transit workers, to mom-and-pop stores and sex workers, and then all of the more obvious people like DJs, bartenders, and all of the business owners as well,” he said. The industry is “generally an afterthought—not just for Vancouver, but for many cities.”
HVA’s night economy overview notes that some cities, like Amsterdam, New York and Toronto, have implemented government policies and planning that make nightlife more vibrant, safe and inclusive—as well as more economically and culturally stable.
Sabine said that changes to capacity limits in the last few years were a good step, but issues around noise by-laws and roadblocks to setting up new venues or events remained. The consultation hopes to identify what people want from Vancouver’s nighttime scene, and figure out how to make those ideas a reality.
The consultation has a couple of different forms: one-on-one conversations and small roundtables with relevant business groups and cultural organizations; and an online survey, open to everyone, that aims to gather wide-ranging feedback on what Vancouver’s night scene needs.
However, time and money are limited: the survey will only be open for a few weeks. Then, a report will be compiled and presented to the City of Vancouver in late May.
Ultimately, Sabine hopes that the consultation will be used to help shape conversation around nighttime economy policy, and lead to the creation of a dedicated Nighttime Economy Office—though details on what exactly that would look like are still being developed.
“A thriving nighttime economy is not just about entertainment and leisure; it's also about supporting local businesses, creating job opportunities, and enhancing our city's overall energy and livability,” said Jane Talbot, Interim President and CEO of Downtown Van, in a press release. “A dedicated nighttime economy office can help Vancouver realize its full potential as a 24-hour city, benefiting residents and visitors alike.”
Although plans for this kind of consultation have been in the works for a while, COVID-19 dramatically impacted the industry for several years.
Politically, ABC Coun. Lisa Dominato first proposed actions to help the nighttime economy in 2019, and former Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart signed off on creating an Office for Night Time Economy last year. However, said office does not seem to exist in the municipal government yet.
ABC also included a promise to create a Night Mayor in their election manifesto. Sabine said that the vocal support from the municipal government meant “the timing is critical.”
“There is not only political will, but there is a will from city staffers and business owners and workers in the nighttime economy,” he said.