Belfast district groups plan on appointing 'night tzar' in bid to boost city's economy
Three Belfast district groups are campaigning to get the city its very own 'night tzar' to boost the night-time economy as they await the outcome of a new standards audit.
Linen Quarter Bid, Belfast One and Cathedral Quarter Bid are calling on business leaders who trade between 5pm and 2am to consider stepping into a role that could help increase income generated from night-time visitors to the city centre.
It comes just as Purple Flag auditors arrived in the city to assess the night-time economy, which covers businesses like restaurants, bars and late-night cafes. It's a similar process used to grant parks Green Flag awards and how beaches are audited for Blue Flag status.
Chris McCracken, managing director of the Linen Quarter Bid, said: "Over the last nine months the steering group have spent £45,000 to fund everything from research into our night-time economy to survey work and more ahead of the visit.
"Belfast's night-time economy has many strong aspects and it's under-appreciated and perhaps it could be marketed better so we are looking at that too."
He said the groups' assessment reflected shortfall areas including night-time public transport.
"If investment is made, over time a night time public transport service would grow.
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"We believe we also need a night mayor, or a tzar as we would prefer to call them. That would be one single person who would help co-ordinate the night-time economy and flag up areas in need of improvement."
He said he would hope an appointed professional "with years of experience" could also encourage a more varied offering in the city between 5pm and 2am including late night cafés and non-alcoholic venues as well as night galleries and other "ways to animate the city at night".
"We want Belfast to be set apart and that will link into the growth of tourism and support more jobs. We have the potential to grow tourism here, even double it."
The group, who are hopeful that Belfast will win Purple Flag status, said when the results are announced on January 31 they will celebrate with another Belfast Restaurant Week.
"We're hopeful and if we win, we're going to put £25,000 into marketing the night-time economy and promote its national accreditation," said Mr McCracken.