The night-time economy is too valuable to London to be left in the hands of the drunks, the regulators and the naysayers.
That’s the feeling of those championing a key driver of economic and cultural regeneration which contributes £26.3billion to the capital’s GDP – 40% of the UK’s total.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan responded by appointing Amy Lame as night czar but, as the fractious introduction of the Night Tube showed, there are vociferous pockets of protest from those whose lifestyles are affected.
Mr Khan plans to publish his vision for the 24-hour city later this year with a move away from clubs, bars and pubs to a spectrum of cultural offerings, such as the Late Night programme at museum and art galleries.
Jack Hopkins, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association , wants people to stop punishing drinking venues for the antics of their customers and fears a threat to traditional night-time culture.
He said: “Licensed premises become the focus of attention – not the people who are vomiting in people’s gardens – and there is something here about personal responsibility that gets lost of this because [drinkers] sit outside the regulatory framework.”
He pointed out though that “we’re in a state in the night time economy where it’s the safest it’s ever been. Instances of violence are the lowest ever. We are better behaved”.
Speaking to the London Assembly economy committee he said: “Night time is one of the reasons that Britain is a really diverse culture – it doesn’t matter who you are what your background is there is something for you.
“One of the risks of big money, land values, a strict regulatory environment is that we start to get an homogenous culture where people can’t explore themselves, they can’t go and do different things because those things don’t make enough money.
“So you get chains, you get blandness and you miss out on the melting pot. It is about people getting out from behind their iPhones and meeting real people and having real experiences.”
Museum of London director Sharon Ament agrees and says night time culture should be celebrated.
She said: “I see an opportunity for night time London to be as welcoming to families as it is to those used to navigating it. The facilities of London should be open to all and the informal culture that can happen on our streets is something that we should actively encourage.
“The streets are where London comes together. A developer said to me, where does boy-meet-girl, girl-meet-girl, boy-meet-boy happen? It’s less and less in places like drinking venues it’s more on the streets or in the cultural places.”
Mr Hopkins added: “Local authorities should look at what civic infrastructure they need when they plan big tower blocks – some of that is having local pubs or places where people can socialise. People are living in shared flats where they may not have a living room or a place where they can entertain so they need space.
“For some existing residents see this as outrageous, a business moving in causing nuisance, but maybe that’s a necessary part of civic infrastructure.”
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