By Gamal Hennessy
We enjoy New York nightlife for its music, drinking, entertainment and the chance to connect on a social level but at its core, nightlife is a business that provides a major source of jobs and revenue for people in the city. It is part of a larger hospitality industry that includes hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes. Last month, an organization was founded to support and grow this vital aspect of New York life. NCI sat down with Andrew Rigie after the launch of the group to discuss the impact of the New York City Hospitality Alliance on nightlife culture.
NCI: What does the average New York restaurant or nightlife patron need to know about the Alliance?
AR: Patrons who love New York City hospitality can rest assured that this great industry now has its very own, independent organization to represent it in the halls of government and beyond. Plus, the education and training we offer our members ranges from food safety to managing a safe nightlife venue, both of which are in the best interest of patrons.
NCI: What major initiatives are you working on in your first year?
AR: We will focus on the four pillars of our mission: advocacy, advice, information and education. Our advocacy efforts will focus on developing a more collaborative relationship between government and the hospitality industry, one that ensures public safety while reducing financial penalties and regulatory burdens. We are working to reform the punitive nature of the Health Department’s letter grade system. We will work to roll back the State Liquor Authority’s Prohibitionist-era 200' law that hinders industry and economic growth. The Alliance will be at the table for every serious discussion about improving the regulatory environment for the hospitality industry. We’ll offer our members complimentary access to a powerful network of hospitality experts who offer advice and answers on topics ranging from labor law to social media. The Alliance will publish information to keep business owners up-to-date on laws, regulations & hospitality industry trends, coupled with educational and training seminars to keep them “in the know”.
NCI: What role do you see musicians, DJ’s, dancers, bartenders and performers playing in the strength of New York’s hospitality industry? How do you envision the relationship between that creative community and the Alliance going forward?
AR: These performers all play an important role in the vibrancy, success and cultural relevance of the hospitality industry. They attract people to these NYC businesses where they spend money, which is critical for the hospitality industry and local economy. Initially The Alliance may not have a direct relationship with the creative community but we surely have an indirect relationship via our members who operate the hospitality establishments that often employ artists and provide them venues to showcase their art.
NCI: New York hospitality generates art and culture as well as jobs and revenue. Will the Alliance be taking steps to develop the artistic elements of the industry?
So many artists work in restaurants and bars for income and flexible schedules while pursuing their dream in the arts, so the more hospitality jobs available the greater the opportunities for artists. Also, there’s no doubt that the training and education we offer our members, coupled with our advocacy efforts to create a more favorable regulatory environment will enhance the diversity of hospitality establishments, which in turn supports and provides opportunities for the artist community. For example, the more bars that offer live music the more gigs available to musicians. The more coffee shops around town the more walls available for locals to hang their art.
NCI: Which politicians and public figures have been instrumental in working with the Alliance in its creation?
AR: There have been many so far, but two in particular have been Mayor Bloomberg’s administration and City Council Speaker Quinn who have been working with The Alliance on ways to reduce regulatory burdens on business owners.
NCI: Will the Alliance have events and programs opened to the public?
AR: The Alliance works with organizations like City Harvest and promotes their public events, which support philanthropic causes like feeding NYC’s hungry.
NCI: Where do you see the Alliance heading in the next two years?
AR: The Alliance will further solidify itself as the premier trade association supporting and representing NYC’s restaurants, nightlife venues and industry suppliers. We will continue to grow our diverse membership base of hospitality businesses throughout the five boroughs and ensure this vital industry has a respected and influential voice in the halls of government and beyond.