Ariel Palitz will be the city’s first “night mayor,” it was announced today. The former Community Board 3 member and onetime owner of East Village nightclub Sutra will officially be known as the Senior Executive Director of the Office of Nightlife, and will act as a liaison between City agencies, the nightlife industry, and local residents. The goal is to “promote a safe and vibrant nightlife scene that benefits businesses and residents alike,” per the City’s announcement.
Palitz was born and raised in New York City and was a promoter and event planner at clubs like SOBs and the Tunnel before she opened Sutra in 2004. The self-described “New York nightlife preservationist” envisioned Sutra as “a common ground for the diverse expression of New York, from hip-hop to rock music to reggae to Bollywood,” she told Bedford + Bowery shortly after Sutra closed after a 10-year run. The club was a go-to for hip-hop drop-ins like Funkmaster Flex, Slick Rick, and De La Soul.
As it became a dance destination, Sutra stepped on some toes. In 2005, it topped then City Council member Eva Moskowitz’s list of Manhattan’s noisiest bars. Palitz attributed the noise complaints to an especially vigilant neighbor; the police scrutiny prompted her to advocate for fellow entrepreneurs as a member of the New York Nightlife Association and Community Board 3’s SLA Licensing Committee. In 2012, Sutra once again had the most noise complaints in the East Village and Lower East Side; the Local East Village counted 265 of them in a 22-month period.
As a member of Community Board 3, Palitz didn’t necessarily agree with its anti-nightlife policies, such as refusing to support new liquor licenses in saturated areas such as St. Marks Place. In 2014, she told Bedford + Bowery she was in favor of “better judgment and [the] use [of] more common sense restrictions and stipulations when approving licenses, rather than just throwing up a list of restrictions that ultimately wind up making the businesses suffer and close.”
That air of restrictiveness “has made it difficult for operators to create environments where people can feel like they can really let go and enjoy and release like they did ‘back in the day,'” Palitz told B+B.
In a statement released by the City today, Palitz said she saw her appointment as “an opportunity to build bridges with neighbors and address quality of life concerns. I intend to listen to all voices, identify problems, find common ground, and implement realistic solutions. The Office of Nightlife will be a place for operators, employees, creators, patrons, and residents alike.”
In September, Mayor de Blasio signed the bill creating the Office of Nightlife and a 12-person Nightlife Advisory Board. Today, he said Palitz “understands the needs of live musicians, artists, business owners and residents, and she’ll help bring everybody together to foster the kind of vibrant and safe nightlife New Yorkers deserve.”
Palitz’s appointment was hailed by the bill’s sponsor, City Council member Rafael Espinal, as well as fellow Council members Carlina Rivera, who had previously pledged to work closely with the night mayor.
Hundreds of candidates had applied to head the Office of Nightlife, which will be housed in the same building as the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment. Palitz will begin work following the recent repeal of the Cabaret Law, a 91-year-old statute which prohibited dancing in non-licensed venues.