Ottawa’s nightlife is fine, but it definitely has room for improvement. Photo: CC, S. Nameirakpam, via wikicommons.
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Nightlife supervisor fosters London’s sundown culture—could Ottawa be next?

In a recent Irish Times article, the newspaper explored the idea that Dublin ought to adopt a night czar—someone tasked with advocating for bars, clubs, and evening-culture as important parts of the city.

This type of post is held by Amy Lamé in London, and Mirik Malan in Amsterdam with varying degrees of success—so why not bring one to Ottawa?

The job of the night czar, or night mayor, in both London and Amsterdam has been to turn the two cities into functioning 24/7 destinations for night-time culture—which Ottawa has always struggled with.

Ottawa—which has often been dubbed the town (or city) that fun forgot—faces lots of challenges when it comes to nightlife.

Firstly, the city has, for the most part, abided by provincial laws which state that bars and clubs must close by 2 a.m.. This kind of policy offers potential party-goers two options if they want to explore the night—that they either dance, sing, and enjoy, bars or clubs until 2 a.m., or they stay at home—neither of which are conducive to a 24/7 city.

Secondly, the biggest centres for bars and clubs in Ottawa are split between the Byward market, and Elgin Street—which might work for big cities like New York—but, due to the fewer number of party-goers in Canada’s capital, can sometimes make Ottawa feel like it’s lacking the same buzz.

However, these types of problems are the exact type of things that a night czar could look to fix.

In Amsterdam, the night mayor has given licenses to 10 clubs that allow them to remain open for 24 hour periods—which has actually had two beneficial effects. Not only did it give people a place to experience Dutch nightlife, but it also helped to reduce concentrated noise pollution on the streets as it worked to disperse the mass-exodus of partiers that normally appear at a city-wide last-call.

So, I think that a night czar might be perfect for Canada’s capital—a night czar, or night mayor, would be in charge or making decisions that would foster the growth of city-wide nightlife while simultaneously abiding by the wishes of nearby residents.

While making Ottawa a destination for parties, music, and night-time art might sound like a dream for some, it’s probably also a nightmare for others who prefer the city’s quiet side.

To see that same hesitation in action, we need only look at the 2017 Canada Day celebrations which loosened a few drinking laws, but didn’t go so far as to let the Byward market try an open-bottle policy for the weekend—despite lobbying by bar owners.

On the flip-side, the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, and Algonquin College, make up a sizeable percentage of the city’s population—so, having a more welcoming nightlife atmosphere might encourage those students to stay after they graduate.

Plus, portraying Ottawa as a welcoming city for young people and after-dark creativity, might attract more artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs who are looking to looking for a vibrant place to live.

Who knows, it could even change Ottawa’s reputation from that of a city that fun forgot, to a city that never sleeps.


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