By Gamal Hennessy
One of the recurring issues that nightlife faces in New York is the negative perception held by the public. A better image for the industry can change the way we are treated by City Hall, the police, the courts and even the press. There is an event going on right now in Midtown that offers a good model of how we can improve our image.
New York is already host to several events designed to raise the prominence of specific industries. The garment industry has Fashion Week, film has the Tribeca Film Festival, eateries have Restaurant Week, independent music has CMJ, the wellness industry has Spa Week and so on. All of these events garner major media coverage and (ironically) many of them use bars, lounges and nightclubs as venues for their events. If the nightlife industry took a cue from these groups, they could create a special marketing period to put themselves in the limelight (no pun intended).
There are a variety events that can occur during Nightlife Week to make it successful:
• Participating venues can have drink specials (similar to happy hour prices) and special menus to draw in both the casual drinker and the cocktail enthusiast.
• Music venues can have special performances from prominent bands and DJ's.
• New albums could be timed to drop during Nightlife Week.
• Flair bartenders and mixologists can make special appearances and participate in competitions.
• Dancers of all types can be brought in to perform and interact with the crowds.
• Art displays can be commissioned and unveiled in lounges.
• Tours of our various nightlife areas can be organized as package deals, giving visitors a chance to sample several venues every night.
• If possible, new venues can have their grand opening during this period to generate more prominence for the new club.
• Panels from prominent operators can discuss relevant political, economic and cultural issues in an open forum.
• An awards ceremony can be organized to recognize the best venues, operators and performers in a variety of categories.
• Liquor distributors, music companies, fashion companies and even car companies can promote goods and services that appeal to the patrons.
The number of possible events is endless but the underlying message would be constant; nightlife is important to the city for a variety of reasons that are just as important, if not more important than fashion or movies.
Nightlife Week wouldn’t simply help the nightlife industry. All the related industries that benefit from nightlife would get a boost as well. Airlines and hotels would get more bookings as people came in from out of town to be a part of it. Boutiques and clothing stores would sell the things patrons would wear. More people would ride in cabs, eat as restaurants and spend money in various ways because they were out in the clubs. Nightlife Week can create an economic ripple effect stronger than Fashion Week because so many more people can participate when they go out.
It might seem counter intuitive for nightlife operators to seek a partnership with other club owners who they compete against every night. The New York market has one of the most competitive nightlife industries in the world. Spending time and money on efforts that can assist others might feel like working with the enemy. But keep in mind that on this level we are talking about leveraging strength in numbers to improve the condition of all venues. Professional athletes compete with each other for spots on a team, and compete against other teams to win games, but they all come together as a labor union when it is time for collective bargaining with the owners of the teams. Designers compete against each other for sales, but few of them will turn down a chance to participate in Fashion Week. In the same way, clubs and lounges can compete with each other for talent, patrons and money, but come together in an effort to improve their image overall.
Nightlife Week isn’t an endeavor that can happen overnight and it might be several years before it gains the prominence of a Winter Music Conference, Fashion Week or Sundance. But the benefits that nightlife can gain in terms of improved image, increased social influence and higher revenues make the concept worthwhile. If fashion can do it, why can’t we?