NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— In an effort to address the importance of the after-hours hospitality industry, coupled with a council-approved budget of $500,000, the city has rolled out the Office of Nighttime Economy. Many cities around the country have recently done the same to address issues both large and small as it relates to bars, restaurants, musicians, and hospitality workers.
According to Mayor LaToya Cantrell, “This really is really to bridge the gap between our cultural community on the ground and city government.”
Howie Kaplan, owner of the music club Howlin’ Wolf and manager of the Rebirth Brass Band, has been chosen to lead the office that hopes to service a struggling, but vital industry to the city.
“There is no one silver bullet for any of this. I wish there was but you’ve got bars and venues and restaurants that have gone through hell the last 2 years. We’re still recovering from Ida,” said Kaplan.
Music advocate and Offbeat Magazine publisher Jan Ramsey called for this office over 10 years ago and says that while issues affecting these businesses can vary, some of the issues could be solved by having an advocate inside city hall.
Ramsey said, “One of the things that the cultural economy, the nighttime economy can do is to be a liaison. I think that’s the important word to use between the city, the council, the mayor, and the musicians, the hospitality workers, the venues, the restaurants, the bars, and we have never had that before.”
Kaplan’s appointment to head a city office while running businesses under that office’s watch has been questioned.
According to Kaplan, “We are still waiting, and we should have an opinion from the state ethics board, so we’re finishing up the paperwork to make sure we are in compliance. Understand this office is not a budget that’s going to the Howlin’ Wolf, not a grant that I can give to the Rebirth Brass Band. This is about raising the level of the cultural economy as a whole.”