Underwhelmed with DC’s New “Night Mayor”? You’re Not Alone

[Full Disclosure: Barred in DC spent at least 30 minutes updating his resume and drafting a cover letter and applied for his job. He never got a callback, and is not bitter. At all.]

Today, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed Shawn Townsend, a Supervisory Investigator at ABRA, the Night Mayor Director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture.  Reactions have been fairly negative thus far:

  • “D.C. Put A City Bureaucrat In Charge Of Its New Nightlife Office” – DCist, Rachel Kurzius
  • “I’m thoroughly disappointed,” [the owner of Trade/Number Nine] says. “We wanted someone with real world experience. ‘I once opened a bar in South Carolina,’ isn’t enough.” (see WCP/Laura Hayes article
  • #keepdcboring
  • “Wow. So lame”
  • “bucking trends is something only the coolest towns do. DC is a cool town and totes has a gf…u wouldn’t know her cuz her mom used to be the Canadian ambassador, so, uh, she’s back there, now, yeah”
  • “Oh this is not going to end well” – Trevor Frye, former DC bar owner/bartender
  • Real-life tweets from non-family members or on my payroll:
    • “It’s not Barred in DC so I move along.”
    • “Barred in DC was robbed.”
    • “Barred in DC’s name isn’t Shawn Townsend tho.”

The Washingtonian’s Brittany Shepherd found out some public details about Mr. Townsend, including exactly which bar Mr. Townsend opened: a bar in the West Ashley suburban area of Charleston, SC, called 7 Cafe. The spot was open from around 2010 to 2015, it seems was located in a strip mall parking lot, which isn’t exactly comparably located to the many bars in DCs in walkable, dense districts near residents and the like.


Well it did have a valet.

Laura’s article is really a good read regarding the missed opportunity they had with this position, as many folks wanted something more akin to the Night Mayor in Amsterdam, NYC, London, and other cities around the world being a creative force in getting nightlife really ramped up, which is the key issue in why so many folks were disappointed.

The office that Mr. Townsend will lead was created by the DC Council to be more of an outreach/liaison role in the first place. This was always clear by anyone who followed the law and read the position description that this wasn’t going to be a “night mayor” as in other cities. Instead, DC apparently really hyped up this position to the media, talking about all the applications they received, and the media ate it up (note many of these articles really explained what the position did, but again most people only read tweets/headlines).

As early as October 9th (before many of these articles came out), Mayor Bowser was saying the  city has already has “a daytime, lunchtime and night time mayor” but this didn’t stop the media from continuing using the term (particularly since it seems self-serving from the Mayor in an election year.). As a result, with the government really pushing forward the narrative that this was a big deal with all their applications set the expectation that the government wouldn’t be hiring another bureaucrat. [Disclosure: I’m really good at being a bureaucrat, but alas.]

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