Nightlife in Ottawa is entering a new era

Published on
February 9, 2024
Arts, heritage and events
Business, economy and innovation

Feature story

If you take in concerts, sporting events, festivals, dining out or any other kind of leisure, live entertainment or cultural activities after 6 pm, then this news is for you.

The City is looking to appoint its first-ever Nightlife Commissioner to spearhead the implementation of the Nightlife Economy Action Plan. Even if you’re not interested in applying for the job, this is a good time to review how this role will support Ottawa, and lead the new Nightlife Economy Action Plan.

Bluesfest crowd at night

Consider these numbers:

  • An estimated $1.5 billion is spent annually on nightlife activities in Ottawa. This is approximately 30 per cent of the daytime consumer spend.
  • Approximately 84 per cent of nightlife spending comes from Ottawa residents and 16 per cent from visitors.
  • Ottawa’s nightlife-related businesses employ more than 38,000 workers, including more than 25,000 in food services and 5,000 in the arts.
  • Ottawa has approximately 4,600 nightlife-related businesses.

Ottawa’s Nightlife Economy Action Plan will support, develop and promote nightlife activities and experiences. We’re looking at nightlife infrastructure, policies and amenities to create nightlife experiences that are more vibrant, diverse, inclusive, viable, safe and well-managed.

Empty seats at Meridian Theatre

Five highlights of the Nightlife Economy Action Plan

1. Establish the framework for a Nightlife Commissioner Office

The Nightlife Commissioner Office will work to establish Ottawa as a nightlife

destination of choice for residents, visitors, businesses and investors. The Office will engage with the residents, businesses, City officials and other regulators to implement the Nightlife Economy Action Plan.

2. Promote nightlife in Ottawa

Nightlife Economy Action Plan initiatives will support nightlife throughout the city, not just downtown. The plan is to promote citywide and neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood participation in the nightlife economy. We’ll work with Ottawa Tourism, Business Improvement Areas (BIAs), and others to help Ottawa step up its nocturnal game.

3. Develop a citywide Nightlife Safety and Security Plan

The Nightlife Economy Action Plan calls for increased communications, information and safety training for nightlife workers and participants. We will also explore improvements to public transit, lighting, and public washroom access between 6 pm and 6 am. We’ll leverage and promote existing plans and programs such as:

  • Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan
  • Anti-Racism Strategy
  • Party Safe Program

4. Establish a Nightlife Ambassador Council

This group will be comprised of industry and community leaders representing:

  • Ottawa Music Industry Coalition
  • Ottawa Festival Network
  • Business Improvement Areas
  • Ottawa Tourism
  • Community Associations
  • and more

5. Identify opportunities to support the establishment of new mid-size venues

By mid-size venue, we’re talking about a theatre or a concert hall for between 1,500 and 2,000 people The plan is to encourage more opportunities for live entertainment to support local music and grow Ottawa’s reputation as a music city.

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