Jul 22, 2022 - News

Meet Philly's new director of nightlife

A headshot of Raheem Manning wearing a grey blazer.
Raheem Manning. Photo courtesy of the city of Philadelphia

Philly doesn't want to be kept in the dark about its nightlife. So the city created a new role to support and grow its late-night industry.

Driving the news: Philadelphia's Commerce Department named Raheem Manning, the founder of travel and events company The Weekender Experiences, as the city's first nighttime economy director on Thursday.

Why it matters: Until now, Philadelphia was one of the only major cities in the U.S. without a government position dedicated to its nightlife economy, City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas said in a statement.

  • "The city needs someone to think about life after 5pm, to think about businesses after 5, safety, inclusion and to innovate how we approach some of the problems that cities deal with [as an] afterthought," Manning told Axios.

Between the lines: Calls to address safety in the city's commercial districts at night were renewed in early June after a shooting on South Street left three dead and 11 injured.

  • Several community events have been canceled this summer due to rising gun violence in the city, WHYY reports. And several weeks ago, Mayor Jim Kenney imposed an earlier summer curfew for teens in an effort to improve safety and deter violence.

Catch up fast: Manning, a West Philadelphia native, recently served as co-chair of the city's Arts and Culture Task Force, which was set up in late 2020 to help sustain the industry during the pandemic.

  • Last year, the task force released policy recommendations to help the sector rebound, which included the creation of a new position or office to oversee the city's nightlife economy.
  • The mayor's budget, which City Council approved in late June, is helping fund the new role.

State of play: Manning told Axios he's met with nightlife mayors, directors and managers around the globe — from Amsterdam and Berlin to Austin and Pittsburgh — to help prepare for the role.

  • "That gives me a breadth of first-hand experience on cities that are doing it right, cities that we can emulate and take some things from," Manning said.

What to expect: Manning will do a listening tour to meet with businesses, restaurant operators, venues, workers and industry leaders and learn how the city can better support them.

  • The tour will help inform a nighttime governance plan, which will strategize how to make the local industry globally competitive.
  • Manning said he's also working to create an advisory council of stakeholders who will meet quarterly and help ensure the plan is inclusive.

What's ahead: Manning said the hope is that eventually Philadelphia will have an entire office dedicated to the nighttime economy.

  • But right now, Manning wants businesses to know that they have someone to advocate for them.
  • "You now have someone dedicated to making sure that you are able to thrive in Philadelphia," he said.
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