North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce hosts panel of key nightlife leaders

Appearance by city’s Nightlife Mayor Ariel Palitz, as her 5-year term ends

May 4, 2023 Janna Shaftan
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WILLIAMSBURG — Recently at the Wythe Hotel, the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce held a panel with key figures in the local nightlife scene facilitated by Dhruv Chopra, founder and CEO of Elsewhere. Other speakers included Kae Burke, co-founder of House of Yes, Ronan Daly, General Manager of the Bowery Presents, Charley Ryan, co-owner of Brooklyn Bowl, and Ariel Palitz, founding Director of the NYC Office of Nightlife. The event was backdropped by a particularly meaningful moment, as President Biden plans to end the national and public health emergencies for Covid-19 on the upcoming date of May 11, nearly three years after the pandemic began.

Leaders in Brooklyn nightlife: Ronan Daly (left), Charley Ryan, and Ariel Palitz, the founding Director of NYC Office of Nightlife.

The panel mirrored an air of hope and resurrection, with the Brooklyn nightlife scene already going strong and with many exciting developments planned ahead. What’s new for the upcoming year? Key themes were community building, revenue generation, sustainability, inclusivity and an emphasis on safety.

Ariel Palitz, who is departing as the first ever ‘Nightlife Mayor’ after following the lines of Berlin, London and Amsterdam to establish the office five years ago, quoted the vitality of Brooklyn nightlife in the city’s economy and culture, being responsible for 300,000 jobs and generating $35 billion in economic output. “Nightlife is a convener and we should harness the power of industry to provide the best possible experience for people,” voiced Palitz.

Dhruv Chopra, Ronan Daly.

The group spoke about incorporating sustainability, with Ryan sharing that Brooklyn Bowl has become the first LEED-certified bowling alley, using 100% wind-powered electricity and serving only what is locally produced. Their slogan: “Our beers are all local, our chicken is fried, and now it’s official we’re LEED Certified.”

Burke discussed, and others voiced their support for the resurgence of sober clubbing and serving nonalcoholic adaptogenic beverages (think of the popular Kin Euphorics), as well as regular booze-free dance parties. The group also discussed the proliferation of cannabis consumption lounges as a relatively new fixture on Brooklyn streets.

Kae Burke.

Safer nightlife was a key theme. Chopra likened safety to the bottom layer of Maslow’s hierarchy of (nightlife) needs, with several other needs, like inclusivity, to be met before the environment can be used for higher needs like connection and self-actualization. The group discussed the importance of the Narcan Behind Every Bar campaign, part of NYC’s harm reduction approach to substance use. The campaign offers training to venues and staff to use naloxone — a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Burke mentioned including EMTs on staff at House of Yes.

Darryl Phillips from ASAP Foundation.

The panel discussed the integral importance of inclusive environments. “We want you to feel that among your neighbors and friends,” said Daly. “We’re here for the social and community aspects,” echoed Ryan. This includes building an accepting space, de-escalating any situations that may arise and leading with integrity. Chopra discussed finding self-actualization through his lifelong involvement with Jazz. He joked that he himself feels uncool in Elsewhere these days, compared to the club’s vibrant scene.

Issues around liquor licensing were brought up, with the process being extremely difficult for business owners and ‘punitive without having done anything wrong’. Daly is on the SLA board and plans to work to make this process easier in the future.

Jeb Colwell, founder of Curious Elixirs, and Diana Zelvin, Board Member of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

The group closed by speaking about the rewards of working in the nightlife and entertainment industry. Daly discussed the euphoric sense of belonging that is present in nightlife venues and the group discussed the rewards of providing livelihoods and watching staff grow.


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