We’re seeing a new shift in downtown policing, particularly when it comes to late-night activities. In many downtowns, particularly those in college towns, police officers often feel under siege with the sheer amount of late-night patrons, underage drinking, disturbances and fights. And the next morning city services are as overloaded as a host trying to clean up after a wild party. Keeping people safe and cleaning up the mess—surely there must be a better way.
Now we’re beginning to see a new paradigm emerge, one that focuses on customer service and increased sales, not just public safety. The concept of Hospitality Zones, coined by the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI), is a well-tested and well-supported approach that downtowns are using to create and maintain a Sociable City.
According to RHI, a Sociable City “invests in the safety and vibrancy of the nighttime economy by nurturing hospitality zones where people of diverse ages, incomes and lifestyles unite as a community to share food, beverages, music and dance in public venues.”
The focus of a hospitality zone is just what it says: being a good host to your late-night customers by proving for their well being, ensuring that they feel comfortable and safe, and even making sure they can find a drink in the evening and a ride home later that night. By doing so, you automatically cut down on all the problems associated with night life such as driving under the influence, fighting and the like.
This is a cooperative approach where businesses, the police and the community work together to improve the nighttime economy. A well‐planned and well‐managed hospitality zone can reduce crime, increase businesses and attract new residents and new entrepreneurs.
RHI lists the core elements of a Hospitality Zone, including:
1. Music and Entertainment
Nurturing talent and expanding venues to provide multi-generational entertainment.
2. Community Policing
Gaining regulatory compliance through on-going communication, collaboration and education.
3. Service, Security and Safety
Creating internal policies and procedures so businesses can provide quality products and services in safe environments.
4. Multi-use Sidewalks
Managing the sidewalks as a venue, by using vendors, entertainers, outdoor seating and kiosks to create activity and vibrancy.
5. Late-night Integrated Transportation Systems
Assuring coordinated and appropriate public transportation to match nighttime demand.
6. Quality of Life
Managing the impacts of noise, trash, traffic, pedestrians and disorder through zoning, use codes, allocation of services and public outreach and education.
Notice that it’s not only about checking ids and breaking up fights. It’s about expanding offerings, increasing services and welcoming customers into your downtown.