The new Office of Nightlife is underfunded and understaffed, threatening a $10 billion city industry, according to a Brooklyn pol who helped create the bureau.
Restaurants, bars and other nightlife could face “discriminatory” enforcement and abuse because the office has “no opportunity” to fulfill its role, Democratic City Councilman Rafael Espinal wrote in a letter to Mayor de Blasio expressing “serious concerns” about the industry.
The Office of Nightlife has an annual budget of $446,000 and just four full-time staffers.
“The Mayor’s Office of Nightlife was created with a goal to be a resource for both residents and nightlife establishments and to improve relationships between the two,” Espinal wrote to de Blasio last month. “Unfortunately this office is drastically underfunded and understaffed. With a budget of less than half a million dollars and a staff that can be counted on one hand, there is no opportunity for the office to fulfill its necessary role.”
The office was established two years ago when de Blasio signed legislation from Espinal.
But since then, Espinal said, businesses and community organizations are growing concerned “discriminatory motivations” are behind city and state enforcement operations at nightlife establishments. He said the Cabaret Law banning dancing at bars, which was created during Prohibition and repealed in 2017, was also “selectively applied.”
The “void” at the Office of Nightlife could lead to similar abuses “one again disproportionately impacting” minority- and female-owned businesses and “the establishments those communities frequent.”
Roughly 2% of licensed nightlife establishments in the city have seen multiagency raids and operations, according to Espinal. He urged de Blasio to back legislation that would require regular reports on those operations.
A de Blasio rep said the administration supports the goals of the legislation, but said the Office of Nightlife had enough funding.
“Since its inception last year, the office has launched an online information hub, led a five-borough listening tour and created an interagency working group to coordinate the city’s engagement with this industry,” de Blasio spokeswoman Jane Meyer said. “While we believe the office is appropriately funded at this time, we will continue to reassess to ensure the goals of this office are met.”
New York City’s nightlife industry accounts for more than $35 billion in annual revenue, paying almost $700 million a year in local taxes, according to a study released by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment in January.
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