Cantrell creates new Nighttime Economy office to aid New Orleans’ entertainment venues

Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 11:08 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans makes a lot of its money at night. In fact, more than one-fifth of its economic activity happens after the typical workday is done, according to the city.

That’s why the Office of Nighttime Economy has been created.

“Culture is the economy of the City of New Orleans, but even more importantly (of) the state of Louisiana,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a press conference Monday.

Cantrell appointed Howie Kaplan as director of the new city office. Kaplan is the longtime owner of The Howlin’ Wolf concert hall, manages the Rebirth Brass Band and has been a vocal advocate for musicians and venues, especially during the pandemic.

“This is, ‘How do we become that world-class city that we know we are?’” Kaplan said. “This is how we make investments into our future, make investments into the cultural economy as a whole and into our culture bearers.”

Kaplan’s background gave cause for optimism for some who otherwise might be leery about a new city agency getting involved in nightlife issues.

“Knowing that it is Howie gives me a lot of relief and a lot of hope,” said Tyler Daly, owner of the Royal Frenchmen Hotel. “It’s good that there’s some clarifying force as far as the nighttime economy is concerned.”

Daly’s venue has been facing issues with permits for live music after being the subject of neighbors’ noise complaints. He hopes this new office will be able to help.

He also wishes to see some help for the city’s street performers when it comes to disputes with venues.

“New Orleans is a really community-driven city and maybe we’ve lost a little bit of that over the years,” Daly said. “That’s where you see these exaggerated divides between, whether it’d be street musicians, venues, artists and residents.”

The mayor’s office said the new department’s role is not one of enforcement.

“We’re looking at new ways to deal with that, period,” Kaplan said. “I think it’s about mediation. It’s about figuring out the issues before it becomes an issue at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

It’s a role of advocacy, Kaplan said, providing a direct line for learning about businesses’ and performers’ needs and communicating them to the city, influencing enforcement.

“I don’t think there’s going to be one overarching theme,” Kaplan said. “I think it’s more about the quality of life and about what we can do to elevate that.”

Other major cities around the country have similar positions. Philadelphia and Atlanta announced theirs this year. In New Orleans, the office has been years in the making. The mayor and City Council approved a budget of $500,000 last year.

The state ethics board is reviewing Kaplan’s appointment because of his ownership of a venue. Kaplan said he will recuse himself whenever necessary.

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