Ariel Palitz's Ongoing Quest to Keep the City Alive After Dark

09 February 2024

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From cannabis laws to illegal dance floors, it’s all in a day’s work for Ariel Palitz.  A self-professed champion for the world’s insomniacs, the former New York City nightlife mayor shows no sign of calling it a night.  
It’s 4pm in the City That Never Sleeps™ and Ariel Palitz is already hard at work. New York City’s first nightlife mayor is adjusting to her new life since stepping down in 2023 after five years. 
Or as she prefers, “I’ve stepped up. I didn’t step down.”  
A nightclub owner turned global nightlife ambassador at large, Palitz maintains a whirlwind schedule of consulting, speaking and general information-sharing with the public, public officials and press. Anyone, really, open to understanding the importance of nightlife to culture and economies around the world. 
In the NYC Office of Nightlife she worked towards four priorities she hopes other cities, big and small, will adopt. These can be summarised as support business development; improve quality of life; promote safety, equity, and harm reduction; and elevate nightlife culture.  
Taking an approach at once proactive, strategic and respectful, she has found willing ears from Berlin to Barcelona.  
When we speak, she’d just returned from the Catalan capital meeting with councillors and the deputy mayor to advocate for a night mayor. “The city and enforcement agencies interface with the nightlife industry without a lot of respect or strategy. It wound up being quite impactful, I think we made progress.” 

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Yet New York remains her home and her heart, and where Palitz continues to exert remarkable impact. Late December saw “one of the proudest days” of her nightlife service with the introduction of CURE, a nightlife safety program years in the making.  
The Coordinating a United Resolution with Establishments plan puts police in contact with nightlife to avert potential issues in response to neighbour complaints.  
Solution-oriented, the approach contrasts sharply to the infamous MARCH program it supersedes, synonymous for heavy-handed, surprise venue inspections that terrorised many business owners over its two decades in force.  
The importance of CURE was not lost on the other NYC mayor, Eric Adams: “We can stand up for local residents while letting our nightlife businesses keep dancing in the dark,” he proclaimed on X, formerly Twitter. 
Aligning outdated regulations with evolving expectations is a classic part of the night mayor role, with cannabis emerging as New York’s next major battleground. Legalised three years ago, current rules and regulations prohibit selling the drug in clubs that sell alcohol.  
“Legal or not, it's going to happen, and does happen – not only in New York, but everywhere,” Palitz says. “Are we going to make rules and regulations and guidelines that are going to further decriminalise human behaviour and allow for commerce and entertainment and entrepreneurialism in hospitality to thrive with this new revenue stream?” 
It's a rhetorical question that will no doubt be championed by new nightlife mayor Jeffrey Garcia, a former NYPD detective and member of the Latino Cannabis Association. 
Then there are New York’s arcane Cabaret laws against dancing. A blow-over from Prohibition, the legislation purported to restrict dancing, yet says Palitz was in fact designed to restrict movement of Black, Brown and Queer people. While largely repealed in 2017, vestiges of the laws remain in force.  
The Cabaret laws feel particularly personal to Palitz, who came of age in ‘90s New York and has always felt a connection between culture and nightlife.  
“I grew up in Manhattan, I grew up going out in an extremely diverse city with exceptional nightlife, especially back in the day when I was too young to be going out,” she laughs. 
And that partly explains why she continues to resist to rest.  
“The idea that life only takes place when the sun is up is another illusion created to dismiss the vibrancy, the economy and the culture that happens at night, and that is vital to a city’s economy, culture and personal identity. Life is 24 hours. It's day and night. And it should be treated and respected as a good thing.”  
 
Learn more about Ariel Palitz’s nightlife advocacy https://arielpalitz.com/

 

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