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NYC's Nightlife Recovery: Post-COVID Opportunities and Challenges

Robert Bookman

New York City has one of the most robust nighttime governance models in the country with three legs of a stool that supports nightlife: The Office of Nightlife, a multi-stakeholder Advisory Board and a Hospitality Association. Each complements the other. The Office of Nightlife has the political connections to raise awareness at the state level about the needs of the industry. The Hospitality Association lobbies and advocates for change, while the advisory board addresses a broader agenda of public safety, planning and quality of life in the city. Big wins include a permanent cap on third party delivery fees and a prohibition for landlords to enforce personal guarantees on rent while hospitality businesses were under lockdown. Vacant bars and restaurants may contribute to blight in cities…but they’ve proven to be a major opportunity for women and POC entrepreneurs. Landlords are desperate to fill empty spaces and closed restaurants represent turnkey operations just waiting for a new operator. Pockets don’t have to run as deep as they used to. Diverse entrepreneurs finally have their chance to enter the market. All good things, so what’s the catch? A 4–6-month delay in getting a liquor license from the state is dampening spirits. But the future is looking bright for New York City to regain its nickname as The City that Never Sleeps.Rob Bookman is an attorney who has represented nightlife venues and hospitality associations for decades. He helps bridge the policy and regulatory challenges between New York State and New York City as an advocate to maintain a safe and vibrant social economy.