Amsterdam is a hub for European nightlife. After dusk, the city’s streets are often filled with a cheerful crowd – to the annoyance of local residents. The municipality had a clever solution – and appointed the first Night Mayor.
Amsterdam on a Friday night is buzzing with a unique energy. The city enjoys a worldwide reputation for its nightlife. In an area of a mere 200 square kilometers, countless clubs can be found, including renowned venues like Melkweg or Paradiso.
With the recent introduction of 24-hour licenses for venues, the Dutch capital is truly becoming a city that never sleeps. People of all ages flock to a range of bars, coffee shops, clubs or music venues. For authorities, late night culture is still often associated with a negative reputation.
To clear up this stigma, cities around the world have begun following Amsterdam’s example, appointing Night Mayors.
Nightlife as a creative incubator
We meet Mirik at Rembrandt Square, one of the city’s nightlife hubs. Laid-back attitude, wearing Nike sneakers – not your picture book city official.
But don’t be fooled: As Amsterdam’s first Night Mayor, Mirik Milan is tasked with an important duty. As an ambassador of club culture, the Night Mayor ensures a dynamic nightlife, while helping to build bridges between the municipality, business owners and residents.
With a background as club promoter and profound knowledge of Amsterdam’s nightlife, Mirik is in a perfect position to mediate the unique needs of night culture to city authorities – all the way to the Mayor.
“People often associate nightlife with negative things like alcohol and drug abuse, violence, noise and mess. But it’s way more than that! I want to highlight the social, economic, and cultural impacts of nightlife, too. Late night culture creates a space where people can express themselves and connect with others. And don’t forget that many people are employed by night culture. When there’s people dancing, there’s also people working.”
Rebel in a suit
Mirik considers himself a “rebel in a suit”. However, his laid-back attitude is rounded off by a true sense of knowledge and professionalism. When it comes to his role as Night Mayor, Mirik is working hard to bridge the gap between nightlife and the public consciousness.
“It is important to bring the two together and create understanding,” he explains. “When issues occur in the nightlife community, policy makers’ instant reaction is to shut things down. I want to work on finding solutions. But if you want to get something done in City Hall, you need to speak the language of policy-makers. I’m not going to gain respect if I show up with a baseball cap and sunglasses.”
By speaking with Mayor Eberhard van der Laan three times a year, Mirik has created a relationship based on communication and trust. Independence of the Night Mayor role also helps the doors to City Hall stay open.
“We host roundtables to bring both sides together. This allows for proper discussion and problem solving.” By doing this, Mirik has achieved and maintained a relationship of mutual understanding between city officials, the nightlife community and residents.
New 24-hour licenses
Mirik’s greatest achievement so far has been the introduction of 24-hour licenses for venues in Amsterdam, which is a great step forward for the city’s night culture. His face lights up. “A number of venues in Amsterdam now have control of their hours. This also benefits the surrounding neighborhood as people are not flooding the street all at once when the venue closes.”
A panel decides which venues receive a license based on the value it will contribute to the community. “One important criterion is that a venue is multi-purposed. It should attract a wider group of citizens and not just a club audience. Some of the 24/7 venues host cultural programs, house restaurants, or gyms. One place even has a space for parents to bring their children to play.”
The majority of Amsterdam’s current leading cultural and nightlife venues, including most 24/7 venues, are located in developing neighborhoods outside the city center, spreading out the city’s creative scene. De School, housed in a former college building in Amsterdam-West, is a perfect example of a successful 24-hour venue. Currently housing a daytime café, gym, restaurant, concert space, and gallery, De School has become one of the city’s most popular spots.
Meanwhile on Amsterdam’s northside, a former no-go zone on the other side of the River IJ has developed into a lively space for nighttime events and festivals, mainly around the former docks of NDSM Wharf or the newly opened center of Dutch dance music — the A’DAM Tower.
The new policies maintain Amsterdam’s diverse nightlife, creating balance and relieving pressure on traditional nightlife areas like Leidse Square. “I think that nightlife and culture can bring positive change to underdeveloped urban areas. I’m convinced that will benefit the entire community,” explains Mirik.
A Night Mayor in every city
With the success of the Night Mayor in Amsterdam, cities around the world are considering adopting this position. London recently appointed its first ‘Night Czar’, Amy Lamé.
Recently, an International Night Mayor Summit was held. The conference offered a space where nighttime professionals across the world could meet and discuss the cultural and economic values of club culture.
“Find someone who has credibility in the scene,” is Mirik’s advice for other cities that want to implement a Night Mayor. “The most important thing is to unify the urban nightlife community.”