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'Night Mayor' Bill Aims To Help Unlicensed Venues Come Out of the Shadows

By Gwynne Hogan | June 16, 2017 3:36pm | Updated on June 19, 2017 7:54am
 Unpermitted venue Shea Stadium closed after increasing pressure from city agencies and later lost its lease even after raising funds to bring the space up to code.
Unpermitted venue Shea Stadium closed after increasing pressure from city agencies and later lost its lease even after raising funds to bring the space up to code.
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Photo by Seth Applebaum/Courtesy of Shea Stadium

BROOKLYN — A Bushwick City Councilman is looking to protect the neighborhood's bumping nightlife scene with legislation that would create a "night mayor" to oversee bars, restaurants, venues and dance halls and would help streamline bureaucratic hurdles for smaller establishments.

The bill introduced Thursday by City Councilman Rafael Espinal would create a volunteer task force to identify problems in the bar and concert venue business and an Office of Nightlife run by a "Night Mayor" that would field concerns about venues, permitting issues and begin to implement recommendations made by the task force.

"New York City nightlife we know is one of the most iconic ... in the world. And over the years there has been a crackdown on a lot of venues especially in Brooklyn because of onerous regulations, because the rise of real estate prices," Espinal said.

Part of the legislation's aim would be to help bring venues operating without permits up to code by helping them streamline the process with city agencies, Espinal said.

"These venues do want to be up to code and do want to be operating safe spaces. Navigating city bureaucracies makes it nearly impossible or them to afford all the legal, architectural fees," he said. "The office of nightlife would also help them navigate all that red tape and bureaucracy and give them a system to come up to code."

It's not immediately clear how the office would do that.

East Williamsburg DIY venue, Shea Stadium, shuttered in April after 8 years in operation without permitting. Scrappy concert hall Don Pedro closed down in May.

Espinal said that the task force would study issues in the permitting process and with other concerns over a year and then make recommendations to the Office of Nightlife.

"It's important the city recognizes the contributions that the nightlife industry provides for this city," Espinal said, adding that it's a $10 billion industry that's often portrayed as a nuisance instead of an important part of "what makes New York City so great."

The bill came on the same day as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he would create a nightlife ambassador as part of a plan to spur the creation of 100,000 well-paying jobs.

Patch first reported on the legislation's introduction. Gothamist first reported on Espinal's idea for the "Night Mayor." Similar posts exist in several European cities including Zurich, Paris and Amsterdam, the Economist reported.

The Night Mayor legislation and the city's "Cabaret Law," which makes dancing illegal without a special license, is slated to be discussed in the City Council on Monday afternoon.