London and Amsterdam have appointed night-time mayors who run the cities at night. And other cities like Paris, Toulouse and Zürich have created similar positions, while Berlin also supports night-time economy (NTE).
NTE is estimated to be worth £66billion to the UK and employs 1.3million people.
Cape Town is now looking at ways to hook into this economy.
On any given evening in Cape Town, scores of workers descend on the CBD to start their shift work at the call centres, mostly at St George’s Mall, Strand and Bree Street zones.
Some work throughout the night, just like staff at hospitals, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, as well as cleaning and security staff.
They form part of the target market for NTE, which is currently the focus of a study, a collaborative work between the City, the Cape Town City Improvement District (CCID) and UCT.
The research team is looking at various things, including quantifying the role of NTE in Cape Town.
“The issue is to look at the economy from a time perspective and not just spatially. This research will play an important role in informing future night-time economy policy interventions,” says property economist and member of the research group Professor Francois Viruly.
Although the potential value of the NTE has yet to be quantified, there are some elements of it that are known.
“What we do know is that on a typical Saturday night, some 30000 people enter the CBD and that the night-time economy needs to serve society as a whole. The question is also how one builds on the First Thursday night-time economy intervention in Cape Town, which has been successful,” said Viruly.
He also believes that NTE takes place across the metropolitan area and not just in the CBD, and provides an opportunity for growth.
The researchers distinguish between what happens in the evening from 6pm to midnight (the evening-time economy) and NTE, which runs from midnight until 6am.
Key to the growth of the NTE is the element of residential properties.
In 2017, a CCID report said there were at least 59 residential complexes in the central City and it was hoped the construction of developments worth over R14bn would begin by 2020. These include high-rise, mixed-use developments.
According to Viruly, the growing level of residential units in the CBD is also playing a role in promoting NTE.
“As individuals live in smaller units, the role of the urban environment, including what happens at night, becomes more important It is also of importance in promoting tourism, cultural activities and the arts.”
But it also comes with risks.
“One of the problems with NTE is that while this activity takes place, you also have individuals who are trying to sleep. These potential negative externalities need to be managed through appropriate policies”.
Other risks are related to safety and poor infrastructure.
The ever-popular Long Street, which used to attract hordes of night-time visitors, has now been overtaken by the V&A Waterfront and is regarded as being unsafe. Lighting in some areas in the CBD is also poor.
With NTE also comes the need to look at possible shifting of certain offices to residential areas where they could be of more service, the transport system to make it easier for visitors to access the CBD at all times and delivery hours for the retail market goods.