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City leaders are taking steps to shake off Boston’s Puritan roots with the appointment of a nightlife director last month.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07 appointed Corean Reynolds as Boston’s first director of nightlife economy in February, calling the new position a part of her administration’s plan to help the city’s economy bounce back from the challenges of the pandemic.
Reynolds took office on March 6 with an aim to increase business and diversity in Boston’s night scene. She previously served as the director of economic inclusion at The Boston Foundation, a nonprofit that supports philanthropic efforts in New England.
Boston’s downtown area — in contrast to its residential neighborhoods — has not seen a return to pre-pandemic levels of business due to remote work trends, depriving shops of foot traffic and revenue, according to the Boston Globe.
In an interview with WBZ-TV, Reynolds said she hopes to bring “more of Boston downtown,” referencing a goal to establish more small businesses characteristic of Boston’s neighborhoods in the center of the city.
Beyond problems associated with the pandemic, the city of Boston has long suffered from a perception of having poor nightlife, in part due to structural barriers to staying out late.
Most public transportation shuts down between 12–1 a.m., while state law forbids the sale of alcohol after 2 a.m. — which means most clubs in the city shut down at that time as well. By contrast, other cities such as New York and Chicago allow the sale of alcohol until 4 a.m.
Bill Svetz, a longtime bar owner who currently manages the pub Cathedral Station, said he is skeptical about the ability of a new “night czar” to address Boston’s nightlife reputation.
Svetz, whose business serves queer bar-goers in the historically gay South End, pointed to gentrification and rising costs of living as a major source of decline in the city’s LGBTQ+ nightlife over recent decades.
“It’s quite prohibitive to try to buy property in the South End anymore,” he said.
As a result, young LGBTQ+ people “don’t have the nightlife that we used to have 25 years ago,” according to Svetz.
As the cost of owning a business has risen, so have the expenses of going out in Boston, according to some students.
“The covers here are a little bit more expensive than Chicago,” said Amado D. Candelario ’24 — a Chicago native.
A.J. Veneziano ’23 — a Crimson Arts editor — said the cost of going to a club for a few hours is “way too much money.”
“Not to mention the drinks are vehemently overpriced,” he added.
At a Feb. 22 press conference, Reynolds said she supports calls for the expansion of late-night transportation options, especially in residential neighborhoods, though the MBTA itself falls under state — not city — authority.
“I’ve been stranded two or three times downtown Boston at 1 a.m. because the T stopped running, Ubers were way too expensive, and we weren’t even near a bus stop,” Veneziano said. “There are certainly infrastructure issues that I hope will be addressed.”
Candelario said public transportation shuts down early, which can lead to burdensome costs for alternative ways home, like costly ridesharing apps.
“It really discourages people when they’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t know how expensive this Uber back is gonna be,’” he added.
The result, Calendario said, is a hefty price for a night out with friends.
“You have to be prepared to spend 40 to 60 dollars on the Uber there and back, plus drinks, and if you’re choosing to buy stuff before you go,” he said.
Reynolds’ position falls under the Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Cabinet, tasking her with addressing the racial wealth gap in the city’s nightlife economy.
“You’re already seeing disparities in wealth when it comes to who can afford to go out versus who can’t,” Veneziano said. “I definitely think steps can be made towards diversifying the nightlife crowd because it is — specifically at these clubs — overwhelmingly white upper-class people which, in my opinion, inhibits a lot of the fun because it’s a crowd that I’m not a part of.”
“It can be fairly homogenous at times, and that’s just not fun,” he added.
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