DC exploring having 'night mayor' to help oversee city nightlife

D.C.'s nightlife has seen a huge boost recently with the brand new opening of the District Wharf along with booming business in the 14th Street corridor.

In the past two-and-a-half years, seven restaurants have opened in the Petworth neighborhood alone. People who live in this neighborhood welcome the business, but they say it does bring change that include more noise along with parking and safety concerns.

Now, the idea of a nightlife czar or a nightlife mayor is catching on.

A bill has been proposed to appoint a person whose actual title would be the director of the Office on Nightlife. Also, a nightlife commission would also be formed and would consist of a five-member panel.

The director would be available after hours, so bars and restaurants would have a point of contact during their peak operating times. This person would be able to deal with issues as they arise and be able to make policy recommendations to city officials.

D.C. Councilmember Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4) introduced the legislation and said he would like to see a director in place by next summer.

"That one person in our government that business owners can go to for guidance, but also that communities can go to for guidance," said Todd. "I get calls about traffic, about noise, about hours of establishment. This person would be boots on the ground if you will."

Mark Lee, a longtime hospitality business advocate, thinks this could be a huge help for new businesses trying to navigate the red tape and to open up in the District.

"[It takes] like seven to ten months and nearly $100,000 to get a license in this town and that really is keeping small, new innovative entrepreneurs from making these sorts of contributions to our neighborhoods, so we need to look at how we make it easier to open," said Lee.

There is a hearing on the legislation set for next Wednesday.

These types of nightlife positions exist in other cities around the world such as New York, London and Amsterdam.

Councilmember Todd will travel to Pittsburgh to talk to their nighttime economic coordinator to see how it works for them.