Issue 4, 2019. August-September

   

TBILISI'S NIGHT ECONOMY MARKS FIRST YEAR

The capital's night economy program was established to improve and promote night-time business. Investor.ge looked at what has been accomplished.

Elene Tabagari

Night buses, new investment, a growing entertainment market. Tbilisi's night mayor program - an innovative effort to encourage the capital's night economy - has made some real achievements in its first year.

Night Time Economy Forum

The Tbilisi International Night Time Economy Forum was held on November 30-December 1, 2018. Known as TINTEF, it brought together local and foreign specialists in urban development and night economies.

The forum served as a platform to develop several initiatives, including looking for investors.

It also provided a venue for the neWon Music Festival at the city's newly rehabilitated industrial art hub, ELEKTROWERK.

The event was attended by current and former night mayors from several other cities, including Mirik Milan, Amsterdam's former night mayor, widely known as the world's first night mayor.

In a welcoming note, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze said the forum aimed at "adopting a broad dialogue with the participation of all relevant authorities on the role of urban planning and wise management in the development of a sustainable night-time economy."

He noted that the objective of the forum was to define night time economy and find ways to activate the "hidden spaces in the city" and "encourage growth in the local culture."

Amsterdam Night Mayor Shamiro Van Der Geld attended the forum. He noted that Tbilisi is "on the bridge of becoming a great international nightlife capital."

In a comment posted on the TINEF webpage, he stressed that "before the city gets flooded by international tourists with big wallets, big mouths and demanding needs, it is important for the people and municipality to build on Tbilisi's own past, present and future identity."

Better transportation

Providing better, more accessible transportation to Tbilisi's night spots has been a major priority for the Tbilisi night economy program from the very beginning.

The city introduced the night bus, Number 222, in September. The bus travels across the city from midnight to six am, making 14 stops along the way from Tbilisi's Gldani suburb all the way across town to Varketili, covering central locations along the way including Marjanishvili, Galleria on Freedom Square and Europe Square.

"This is a pilot project, and if it proves efficient we will definitely add more routes. The night bus won't just be important for tourists, but also for people who have to work and be on the move at night," Tbilisi Deputy Mayor Sopio Khuntsaria told Jam News.

What is a night mayor?

Tbilisi is one of a growing number of cities to create a special office to develop the night economy. Colloquially known as the night mayor, the post is actually part of the city government.

In Tbilisi, the position is held by Sergi Gvardjaladze, the director of the Night-time Economy Development project at city hall.

Similar positions have be created around the world, from Amsterdam and Berlin to London and Paris.

In Washington, DC, Shawn Townsend - who shuns the title "night mayor" - told citylab.com that his job is to serve as a "bridge builder, a liaison between nightlife businesses and these government agencies that currently exist."

Amy Lamé, who was appointed Night Czar of London in 2016 by Mayor Sadiq Khan, told Medium that the job is about protecting and promoting the clubs and night venues that foster creativity - and jobs. The night economy in London is worth an estimated ₤28 billion and supports one in eight jobs in London, according to Medium.

"These are talent pipelines," Lamé was quoted as saying. "And if we take the creative industries seriously, we need to make sure the spaces thrive."