Can a 'night mayor' save London's pubs?

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

Amsterdam's night-time mayor Mirik Milan has been successful in the city
Amsterdam's night-time mayor Mirik Milan has been successful in the city

Related tags Night

It’s no secret that London pubs, and particularly pubs that play live music, are under serious pressure from development.

Increasing proximity to new residential buildings has forced many to close their doors, and although many local communities have launched spirited campaigns to save them, they’ve often lacked the clout and funds to stave off closure.

The owners of celebrated music venue the Troubadour in Earls Court​ (which has hosted Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Jimi Hendrix) put it on market earlier this year, arguing they had struggled to make the venue work following mounting costs and a noise abatement notice. There is an ongoing battle to save the Royal Vauxhall Tavern​, a live music venue and the capital's oldest LGBT venue.


In a bid to end these closures, Mayor Boris Johnson has backed plans to introduce a night-time champion or ‘night mayor’ in the capital-but can the role really lend a helping hand to London pubs?

Amsterdam became the first city to introduce a night-time mayor in 2003, and the role has been successful in the city, playing a leading part in introducing 24-hour licenses and encouraging a dialogue between venues, government and residents.

Speaking at a Night Time Industries Association event last week, current night mayor of Amsterdam Mirik Milan stressed how effective night-time champions can be at representing the interests of pubs, bars and clubs to government.

He said:  “There needs to be a dialogue. It’s very difficult to know what’s going on in a city from an office in city hall. You can’t make good legislation about the city’s night time economy if you have no clue what’s going on in the night-life. That’s why it’s really positive to have a person or body that speaks to the government and explains to them where they should make legislation.

Killed off?

“People treat the night industries differently from the day - if there’s a problem during the night the first reaction is to kill the industry. But if there is a problem during the day, they will say let’s get all the smart people together and solve things to make things better. We have to plant the seed in city governments around the world to change attitudes.”

Laia Gasch, special advisor to deputy mayor of education and culture Munira Mirza, agreed.

“The mayor’s office talked to the Music Venue Trust and set up a task force. They came up with a series of recommendations, including a night time champion, but we also learnt about the issues surrounding licensing and regulations-we weren’t really aware that was happening.

“Having a voice is really important. What politicians want is ammunition to build a case, and sometimes the voices complaining are louder than the voices putting forward the benefits of the industry.”

Agent of change

Gasch also re-emphasised the mayor’s commitment to the agent of change principle​, which says that the person responsible for a change is responsible for managing its impact.

It’s undoubtedly good news that the Mayor’s office is more aware of some of the issues facing venues and is listening on how best to tackle them.

But some have highlighted the huge task facing the night mayor, who will have to work with across 32 boroughs and deal with several organisations, including licensing and police.

Other critics have argued that the night mayor will need to be involved in city planning to really turn the tide on pub closures.

Related topics Legislation

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