Many institutions, countless renowned bars and restaurants shut down due to the severe COVID restrictions, as many cities around the globe the current pandemic forced cities across the world to rethink what it means to be a city.
Suddenly everything that makes a city vibrant — crowds of people, live entertainment, public exuberance — seemed to disappear as people took refuge inside.
Nightlife was one of the first things to vanish.
But even before the coronavirus hit, questions of closing hours, noise, spacing and gentrification were already being hotly debated.
“It’s exacerbated that crisis. But it also means that people are trying to think, not just of how to solve the problems of nightlife in COVID, but in the long-term,” says Will Straw, a McGill professor in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies.
Straw has been studying how cities’ nighttime culture is governed and represented.
He says the pandemic is a good opportunity to reimagine nightlife safely and equitably.
“Spread the night out in time,” so that there are fewer people at a given time, and “spread them out in space,” Straw says.
That spread could be geographic as well, he says: Montreal’s nightlife should be more evenly distributed throughout the city.
Staw says it’s important to remember that nightlife is not just about entertainment.
“It’s people who work in hospitals and bakeries who need transportation, who need access to certain kinds of services, and so to think about the night of cities is to think about everyone who’s involved in the night.”