This Is Why Cities Need Nightlife


The most exciting cities in the world are usually the ones with an adventurous, cutting edge nightlife culture. New York. Berlin. London. Amsterdam. There’s something going on at all hours of the night. Cities are always alive, moving, booming. That’s because cities are about what’s happening now, not yesterday. And the flavor of the local nightlife can tell you a great deal about what’s going on in pop culture.

But nightlife is always met with a double edged sword. Clubs gentrify formerly undesirable neighborhoods, making them “cool” and expensive. That much we know. But as soon as those areas go upmarket the nightclubs are usually the first to go. Party’s over my bros.

In Hackney, the East London area where I live, the Council is proposing super strict guidelines for new bars and nightclubs that on the surface would mean no new bars or clubs could open past midnight, though restaurants and cinemas could stay open until 1AM.

Emma Plouviez, the Licensing Committee Chair, had this to say:

“More and more residents who live in areas such as Dalston and Shoreditch are having to contend with people peeing in their gardens, shouting outside their windows at 4am and a host of other antisocial behaviour. Alcohol-related ambulance calls are also on the increase during the evening in these areas, as is the cost to the taxpayer of having to clear up the ever growing piles of litter every weekend.”

This is despite the fact that nightlife is what made Hackney booming in the first place, and the message seems to be that everybody needs to grow up, have kids, and be in by 10pm.

Nightlife has long been seen by moralists as problematic. People who party are just dumb, uneducated hedonists who need Jesus.

But most people don’t realize how important nightlife is for the arts. Contemporary art centers around the world use nightlife to bring younger audiences into the gallery spaces. More, nightlife is a billion dollar global economy in its own right, but it is also a creative industry. It offers us the chance to experience new ideas in art, culture, performance, fashion, music, food and all the rest. There’s that sort of Warholian thing where art, music and fashion are all tied together, only now, nightlife is as much a part of the story of contemporary culture as is art or music.

Where else can a burgeoning DJ or drag queen perform for the first time? Where else can you really get a taste for what’s happening now?

Does nightlife come with problems? Absolutely. But so does sports, and you don’t see anybody shutting down entire stadiums when the home team loses. It always amazes me how much people think that more and more regulations are the answer. The tighter the regulations the harder people will go, especially if they know they’ve got to get everything in before 2am.

Deciding to live in the city is a choice to have everything at your fingertips: delivery, men, women, employment opportunities, fabulous fried chicken, cocktails, great music, and so on. Cities need nightlife ultimately because it makes them interesting places to live. A city with a boring or staid club scene is so different from the place you escaped in the first place.