One way to save Atlanta’s nightlife scene
When the Jungle announced its imminent closure, I was deeply saddened because this was a staple of nightlife for me. The “neutering” of Cheshire Bridge is about more than losing the spaces that made the area cool and interesting; we are losing an economic driver that got consumers like me to spend money in the area. There’s something both sad and ironic about this kind of gentrification. The very thing that made Cheshire Bridge appealing and livable is removed to make way for more people to live there. Without a nightlife industry, will neighborhoods lose their value and appeal?
Atlanta, for all our focus on being businesses-oriented, does not know the econom- ic impact of the nightlife industry in our city. How much money do restaurants, bars and clubs contribute to our local economy? How many people does this industry employ? How much in tax revenue does nightlife generate for our city? For Atlanta, we don’t know. Other cities have realized the value of their nightlife industries and have commissioned studies to gauge their economic impact. San Francisco studied its nightlife industry in 2012 and found that their nightlife establishments generated a whopping $4.2 billion dollars annually in spending. Furthermore, San Francisco found that nightlife establishments employed more than 27,000 people, generating $55 million in payroll taxes.
If we want to see places like the Jungle continue to thrive and not be replaced by condos, we need data to show our government leaders why they are important, and just how much they contribute to our local economy. Bar, restaurant and club owners need to step up and demand Atlanta commission such a study, because then we can create better policies for this industry.
Furthermore, a study on Atlanta could and should get granular enough to show the different categories of nightlife industry — queer-themed, adult entertainment, upscale, etc. — so we know the impact and needs of these different areas.
Atlanta used to be known as a party city. Our nightlife — bars, strip clubs, drag shows — brought people in from around the country. Places like Backstreet, a 24-hour gay club, were the places of legend. As we’ve worked to make Atlanta a denser, nicer, more livable city, we’ve discarded what we’re good at — having fun. There’s immense value to maintaining our nightlife, and bringing back our value as a destination for partying. This would add value to our conferencing industry—people want to get a strong drink or good lap dance when they’re in Atlanta.
After all, doesn’t everyone just want to have fun?
October 13, 2017