Could City of Atlanta install its first ever “night mayor” next year? Possibly.
On Monday, the Atlanta City Council approved a measure to begin a feasibility study into the formation of the “Office of Nighttime Economy and Safety” at City Hall. The proposed legislation was sponsored by District 2 councilmember Amir Farokhi, District 1 councilmember Carla Smith, District 8 councilmember J. P. Matzigkeit, and Post 2 at-large councilmember Matt Westmoreland. All represent Atlanta neighborhoods with thriving restaurant, bar, and entertainment districts.
The proposed formation of a nightlife department at City Hall now heads to the mayor for approval, with findings from the study due back to the city council no later than November 15. Further discussions by the council will likely continue into 2022.
Informally known as a night mayor, the appointed person to lead the department would be an after-hours liaison and advocate acting as point-of-contact, policy advisor, and overnight problem solver for the city. This new city official would be responsible for engaging with Atlanta’s hotels, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, dealing with overnight issues arising from noise complaints and public safety to businesses violating ordinances, including establishments illegally operating without a liquor license, and maintaining smooth public transportation for night-shift workers. Some night mayors host periodic listening tours in order to hear complaints, concerns, and ideas from residents and local business owners regarding a city’s nightlife.
If the Office of Nighttime Economy and Safety is created next year, Atlanta would join other cities around the country and the world with vibrant nightlife economies in installing a night mayor, including New York, Detroit, Washington D.C., Seattle, Orlando, London, and Amsterdam.
Similar forward-thinking measures by the city have either recently been approved or are in the works, bringing Atlanta more in line with other major U.S. and international cities, especially in placing greater emphasis on pedestrian friendly streets and formally establishing entertainment districts.
Last year, to provide restaurants and bars safer dining areas during the pandemic, the city passed a pilot ordinance allowing food and drink establishments to transform two on-street parking spaces into outdoor seating (referred to as parklets) through the end of 2021. The Department of City Planning is working on a new ordinance to extend on-street dining through 2022, possibly making it a permanent option for Atlanta’s restaurants and bars.
“The plan at that time was always, let’s watch it for a year, let’s learn from it, figure out ways to improve it and see if this is something we could make a more permanent fixture for Atlanta,” Joshua Humphries, the director of Office of Housing and Community Development, told Eater in September.
Farokhi and District 5 councilmember Natalyn Archibong were behind legislation that temporarily closed a popular bar and restaurant block along Edgewood Avenue, from Jackson Street to Boulevard, on weekends this summer. It could become a more permanent closure and possibly serve as a template for a future city permit allowing for the closure of other streets to vehicle traffic in Atlanta on certain days of the week.
The city council is currently considering closing down a portion of Peachtree Street on Sunday afternoons. If passed, the Sunday street closures would kick off September 18, 2022, closing a three-mile stretch of Peachtree Street to cars, from 17th Street in Midtown to Trinity Avenue downtown, between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Eater plans to follow the progress of the proposed night mayor legislation, along with the on-street dining ordinance and street closures under consideration and the impact on Atlanta’s restaurants and bars. Check back for updates to these stories.