Nightlife as a Political Issue

by Gamal Hennessy

"Those who do not do politics will be done in by politics."
French Proverb

Politics is the peaceful struggle for control over resources that people want. It is also the way we establish the predominant ideology that defines a particular group or area. Politics exist on a variety of levels but the mechanism that is used to make decisions is constant. Like minded individuals form alliances, to represent their interests. Relative power is determined, positions are defined, meetings are held, and negotiations are made. Control and influence over whatever resource is at issue shifts from one side to another. The process is the same whether you’re talking about who is going to take out the garbage to how many nuclear bombs each country has.

Now what does any of that have to do with grabbing a drink with your friends, chatting up a girl for her phone number or dancing like no one is watching? Don’t we use nightlife to escape the struggles of daily life? Why would we want to inject politics into an area of life that represents pleasure and release? Why not sit back, have a good time, and leave politics for the politicians?

Ignoring nightlife politics is a dangerous choice because if we choose to not see nightlife as a political issue, we place ourselves at the mercy of those groups who are willing to exert influence on the resources that nightlife needs; physical space and the ability to make money. Almost every bar, club and lounge in the city has a fixed location which immediately places it in potential contention with other interests in general area. If a real estate group wants that location for development, there is a struggle. If adjacent residents want their neighborhood to have certain features that the venue doesn’t support, there is a struggle. Various voices weigh in on what they want in relation to nightlife and each one has a certain level of organization and influence that give it the power to realize its agenda. While each group acknowledges the need for some sort of nightlife in the city, the issue often revolves around where and how much nightlife is desirable.

At this point the only major nightlife group that does not have a seat at the table to push its agenda is us. Nightlife patrons do not have an organization that directly represents their needs or even defines what those needs are. The other groups recognize that we exist. Depending on their position we are seen as a benefit or a detriment (or a combination of both) but not as a political force in our own right. If we don’t organize, then our voice cannot be heard on issues that are important to us. Our views on how many clubs there are in the city, where the clubs are, what the clubs offer, and a multitude of other factors are decided by other groups that are focusing on their own needs, not necessarily what we need or want.

That situation is changing. A group called the

Nightlife Preservation Community
(NPC) recently formed to give nightlife patrons the chance to become informed and vote on nightlife issues. Their first major project is the New York City primary race. The NPC has endorsed certain candidates who have expressed a pro-nightlife agenda. They are encouraging club patrons and operators to vote for these candidates in next week’s primary and give nightlife more of a voice in city politics.

This is not a militant call for nightlife to become a single issue party like Green Party or Right to Life. It is a recognition that nightlife is a political issue. Nightlife brings jobs and revenue to the city. It is a source of culture and it defines New York as a city. It is time that the industry and the patrons who support it translate their economic power into political influence.

Have fun