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Chicago

How Mayors Like Sadiq Khan Nourish Their Cities' Nightlife

Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Detroit have pro-nightlife mayors.

by Michael Scott Barron
09 May 2016, 12:45am

Photo courtesy of the mayor's website

Over the weekend, London elected the former human rights lawyer Sadiq Khan as its new mayor. Internationally, Khan's appointment has been celebrated as a milestone — he is the first Muslim to be elected mayor of a Western capital. More locally, as a member of the Labour party, Khan had campaigned for affordable housing and transportation and, as THUMP previously reported, for the conservation of London's nightlife, which has been increasingly threatened by urban developers. His stated commitment to revitalise it may set a precedent for other cities across the United States and Canada to save theirs.

Read more: "London Mayoral Candidate Sadiq Khan Wants to Save the City's Clubs and Nightlife"

Khan has supported a measure, now in effect, known as the "agent of change" requiring developers to acknowledge the existence of clubs when seeking permits in neighborhoods in which they wish to build residencies, and in some cases, to foot the bill for soundproofing new residential developments erected near existing clubs. He has also supported London's initiative for 24-public transit and the appointment of a "night-time commissioner" to act on behalf of clubs and bars rights, mimicking similar positions created in cities such as Paris and Buenos Aires. The latter's head of nightlife, Jorge Becco, recently made headlines when he helped successfully overturn a judge's ruling to close all of the city's clubs after the fallout from Time Warp Argentina.

In the United States, several cities have been led by pro-nightlife mayors, among them Los Angeles' Eric Garcetti, the once Echo Park City Councilman cited by the LA Weekly as the "Hipster Mayor," who held a fundraiser event at the Avalon Hollywood, with his BFF Steve Aoki in performance, for his eventual successful campaign for mayor. "If you like electronic music, then L.A. is where the DJ scene is at," he was reported to have told the crowd. Garcetti's pro-club stance may be protecting numerous clubs from City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who has been waging a "shape up or ship out" campaign against them.

Photo of Mayor Eric Garcetti (L) and Steve Aoki (R) courtesy of the artist's instagram

And in 2011 Las Vegas, where nightlife is the city's major industry, mayor Carolyn Goodman instituted January 2 as DeadMau5 Day in lieu of the DJ's residency at Wynn Las Vegas. At the opening of 29th annual Nightclubs and Bars trade convention, Goodman helped cut the ribbon. Surprisingly, the Mayor has not made an official statement about the recent surge of Las Vegas nightclubs retaliating against the dominance of EDM DJs, a movement that could affect the city's revenue.

Photo courtesy of the office of the Las Vegas mayor

Like Garcetti and Goodman, Khan is also chummy with clubs and DJs. He counts among his friends, the UK Garage DJ turned politician Chuka Umunna. During his campaign, Khan appeared at a LGBTQ held fund-raiser in the famous South London gay nightclub The Royal Vauxhall, now a city landmark. "A third of London's small music venues have closed since 2007," Khan told Dazed, "damaging our city's cultural offering and having a negative effect on jobs and the economy. I will make it more difficult for redevelopment to result in the closure of heritage and cultural venues by strengthening the London Plan."

Similar support for nightclubs was passed in San Francisco in 2014, when Mayor Edwin M. Lee launched an initiative to support nightlife and entertainment industry by providing easy-to-access resources for owners of nighttime institutions. "Our City's world-class nightlife and entertainment industry helps make San Francisco a unique and great place to live, work, play and visit," said Mayor Lee. "The range of tools we are deploying provides our nightlife and entertainment businesses with valuable resources and guidance so they can start, stay, and successfully thrive— keeping San Francisco a premier nightlife destination."

And then there's Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who last year declared May 23-25 "Detroit Techno Week" in honor of the legacy behind the homegrown genre, acting on his promise to help revitalize the city's music culture.

Not all mayors have been as publicly supportive about maintaining their city's nightlife. One of the hopes of the elected Bill de Blasio to the office of mayor was to reinstate NYC as a viable music capital. In an essay penned for Billboard, journalist Justin Kalifowitz advocated for an new Office of Music department on the city council, which would have included "simplifying the complex permit process associated with starting music venues and festivals." Not only has the process remained complicated, but the mayor recently vowed to crackdown and close unlicensed institutions in an effort to curb club-related violence.

So too has Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel remained silent on supporting his city's nightlife. Chicago is the only other city in America, besides New York, to have 24-hour public rail transit, with clubs that keep some of the latest hours in the country. Both Chicago and New York rank high on numerous lists for American cities with the best nightlife, and were that trend to start declining, it may take a sympathetic mayor to help them out.