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Podcast: Supporting the Nighttime Economy with Sarah Hannah-Spurlock, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Posted on June 18, 2021


Sarah Hanna Spurlock

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock
Nighttime Economy Manager
City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Bio | LinkedIn | Twitter


Economy after dark. Sarah Hannah-Spurlock, the Nighttime Economy Manager for the City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, joined the podcast to talk about how the City manages the nighttime economy. She shared what her job looks like day to day, how she engages with business owners, and the policy changes they have made to help the nighttime economy. She also discussed the goal of building an 18-hour City and why cities around the world have created similar roles.

This episode was recorded from the Florida City/County Managers Association (FCCMA) 2021 Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Host: Ben Kittelson

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Learn More

Fort Lauderdale Nighttime Economy Division

Meet The Woman Managing Fort Lauderdale’s Economy After Dark

The Path to Developing Women Chief Administrative Officers


Episode Transcript

Ben Kittelson  00:00

So make sure that’s working awesome. Hey ya’ll, coming to you from Orlando, Florida. This is Gov Love, a podcast about local government, brought to you by Engaging Local Government Leaders. I’m Ben Kittleson, consultant, Raftelis, and Gov Love co host. We are on site at the Florida City County Managers Association conference this week, and we’ve got a great episode for you today discussing the nighttime economy in Fort Lauderdale. But first, the best way to support Gov Love is to become an ELGL member. ELGL is a professional association engaging the brightest minds in government. Gov Love is brought to you by Granicus. With upticks in post vaccine travel right around the corner, it’s time to address short term rentals in your community. If you don’t have a short term rental regulation, or enforcement program in place, you could be missing out on tourism related tax revenue and risking damage to your community’s character. Granicus hosts compliance helps with everything from address identification to ordinance reviews and compliance monitoring. If you’d like to learn more about short term rental regulation, and Granicus host compliance, go to granicus.com to schedule a free consultation. That’s granicus.com for more information.

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Ben Kittelson  01:42

Now let me introduce today’s guest, Sarah Hannah-Spurlock is an ICMA credentialed manager with over 20 years of local government experience. She’s the Nighttime Economy Manager for the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a position she’s been in since 2018. Prior to her current role, she served as, in assistant manager roles in Key West, Sunrise, and Palm Beach, Florida. With that, Sarah, welcome to Gov Love, thank you so much for joining us. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  02:04

Oh, this is fun. Thanks for having me! 

Ben Kittelson  02:05

Yeah. So we have a tradition on the podcast to do a lightning round to let our our listeners get to know our guests a little better, let you warm up, so. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  02:12

Okay. All right. 

Ben Kittelson  02:13

My first question for you is, what was the first album that you bought?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  02:17

I have four siblings, and the five of us pitched in and bought the soundtrack to Grease.

Ben Kittelson  02:22

A group one. That’s that’s the first like group purchase. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  02:28

You know, we didn’t have a lot of money at that age. So yeah. 

Ben Kittelson  02:31

That’s awesome. And since we’re in Orlando, what is your favorite Disney movie?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  02:38

Well, I mean, I had to think about this one, because I don’t I don’t really do Disney in the traditional sense. So I had to look to see what were some Disney films were and, The Help. 

Ben Kittelson  02:47

Okay, yeah. That counts. Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good one. Yeah. And more recent, too.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  02:52

Yes, yes. 

Ben Kittelson  02:54

Awesome. And then, is there a book that you give as a gift most often, like a go to? I’m curious.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  03:01

You, that’s a good question. Not really. I’ve tried given books, and I find that they don’t read them. But a book that I’ve tried to give to several folks is the five love languages by Gary Chapman. Yeah.

Ben Kittelson  03:13

So people don’t like that one?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  03:15

Well, I think they they maybe take it the wrong way. Like, I’m trying to tell them that they, their marriage needs help. And maybe that’s not what they want to hear. I don’t I don’t know. But it’s a great, it’s a great book.

Ben Kittelson  03:26

Yeah. It’s very fascinating concepts. I feel like I’ve read the like, what the website summary of the book, but not the full length. Awesome. And then where do you go for inspiration?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  03:40

Well, I meditate my closet. So maybe that’s, I guess that’s as good a place as any right? 

Ben Kittelson  03:46

Yeah, that counts for sure. And I always like to hear from folks like, how did you end up in local government as like a career like, what was your path to your current job?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  03:56

So my dad worked in, in higher education in the public sector, so the public sector is kind of in my blood. I took a public administration class in college, and I thought, yep, this is this is really interesting to me. I like the compromise. I like the collaboration. And I always had visions of really working at a national level. I worked for several years in retail before I went back to get my masters and I went to school at the University of Kansas, which is the number one local government school in the country.

Ben Kittelson  04:29

You guys talk about that a lot.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  04:30

A little plug for the KUCIMATS. So yeah, so that’s how I landed, settled in local government.

Ben Kittelson  04:37

Okay. And then in that first job, was there anything that you were like this, this was the right choice for me?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  04:44

Well, that’s funny because my first job was working for in Abilene, Texas. That was my first city management job, and two and a half years into that job, the budget, the council cut my position. 

Ben Kittelson  04:57

Oh, wow. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  04:58

And then I got transferred. to their airport, which is where I was when 9/11 hit. So that was really something, that was that was really something. So I’m really glad I got to be part of that. Yeah.

Ben Kittelson  05:12

Wow, so did you help at all with like the implement implementing, like TSA and like?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  05:16

Totally, so we had, I don’t know if you remember, but we had the National Guard for about six months at all the airports. 

Ben Kittelson  05:22

Oh, I didn’t realize that. Wow.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  05:23

Yeah. So even though we just had a tiny Regional Airport that we had the National Guard there for six months. And then yeah, we had to put in all the new security system that they have now. And, and I remember on the day of 9/11, we are the the federal government told us that we needed to remove all automobiles within a certain amount of feet of the building. And that was our entire parking lot. So we had to tow like, 300 cars. 

Ben Kittelson  05:54

To somewhere.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  05:54

To to, yeah, to this, you know, pit, just down the road, just more than 300 feet from the airport. So it was a it was a really, it was a great learning experience. It just so lucky that I happened to be working in an airport during that because, you know, the airports were the first affected by the changes caused by 9/11. 

Ben Kittelson  06:14

Wow. Is there any like, I don’t know, anything you look back on or that, like informs your work now from that, or?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  06:22

Being able to act on your feet. You know, it’s what how are we going to move 300 cars next, however long 

Ben Kittelson  06:28

Those questions that you would never expect to have to answer.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  06:30

You would never expect to have. And, you know, working with the National Guard. I mean, that’s just not something that you get to do every day. So it was, it was fascinating.

Ben Kittelson  06:40

Oh, I bet. It’s interesting. So I think this is, it’s been interesting, where, you know, well over a year, pass the, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s interesting to hear folks kind of reflect back on the year. So I guess for you like, what’s, have there been any lessons learned, you know, during this time, or anything?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  06:58

Gosh, yeah. So especially with my, with my job, I worked, worked directly with the hospitality and creative and cultural communities. And the biggest lesson that we learned was how critical those sectors are to our economy, they really add to the character, the identity, the specialness, the uniqueness of any community lie within those sectors. And when they were completely decimated, it was like, you know. 

Ben Kittelson  07:26

What’s our identity?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  07:26

What’s our identity? We’re not Fort Lauderdale anymore. You know, so that was, that was something and, you know, I think we also learned, you know, to quote, Glenn and Doyle, you know, we can do hard things. You know, things that we never thought conceived that we would be able to pull off, we pulled off. And, you know, that’s what emergencies can can teach you. And I, you know, I think that’s a great lesson for everybody. You know, I people can’t you know, the tradition is that you can’t work from home, that’s just never gonna work. Well, when you have no choice, you make it work. And then we found out in some cases, it even works better. So you know, we can do hard things. And that’s, I think that’s probably the the biggest lesson and to wash your hands, that we aren’t, we weren’t washing your hands nearly enough. 

Ben Kittelson  07:27

It turns out that we were, there were some things lacking.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  08:22

Our sanitary practices were not that great. Yeah. 

Ben Kittelson  08:26

Mostly like wow, I’m you know, I don’t get colds or flus if I wear a mask during flu season. That’s interesting. Maybe I should keep that up. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  08:32

That’s right. Haven’t had a cold and 15 months, that’s something. 

Ben Kittelson  08:35

That’s, yeah. Those are definitely, it’s been interesting to hear like, I’m curious how local governments will emerge out of this. Like, what what kind of sticks and what, what maybe was good for the pandemic and but won’t stay around. But, but you’re right, like the like lesson that like, hey, even hard things like we can do it. And big changes aren’t that big, actually, when you’re forced to, forced to do it. Right?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  08:56

Right. 

Ben Kittelson  08:58

Awesome. Well, I wanted to have you on the podcast because you have a fascinating job. I think it’s fascinating, and maybe a unique role. But so you’re the nighttime economy manager. So let’s just start broad. What does that mean? Like, what does that entail? 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  09:11

Well, that means different things to different people. But so the concept started in Europe and Amsterdam actually, and it was a recognition that in big urban cities, especially, there is a nighttime destination that folks were living in a 24 hour world, we’re living in an 18 hour world. And that means after five, and somebody needs to pay attention to that. It doesn’t just happen by accident. So that’s, that’s how the concept started. We have about eight to 10 of these programs in the United States. And there’s actually one here in Orlando. The city of Orlando has a nighttime economy manager. And like I said, different things to different people. So when it when it started in Fort Lauderdale, the city manager had intentions of having somebody to answer those 2am calls. You know, the such and such a bar is too loud, the base is too loud, it stinks down here, you know, the garbage, somebody to to be that buffer. So I was assigned a team of police officers, code officers, sanitation crew, and it was our job to kind of keep the night time from being too cantankerous for the community 

Ben Kittelson  10:37

Too chaotic. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  10:37

Yes, yeah. So. But that’s, that’s really not what I believe the intention of the concept was to begin with. So RHI, responsible hospitality Institute is really kind of an organization that kind of kicked this whole thing off. And they did a study in Fort Lauderdale a couple years before I started to say, you know, what, what does this community need? It’s a growing, urban city, what are some things that we should be concentrating on? So, you know, looking at public safety from a different perspective, it’s not just about cops and guns, it’s about mixed use. It’s about inclusivity. It’s, it’s about creating an environment that caters to different folks, and is inclusive of different folks. And as a result that has a natural, calming, dynamic. So that’s kind of what I want to concentrate on. And after my first year on the job, my, we had some budget issues, and my whole team was cut. So it was, it became we went from 11 to one. So it was just me. So I pivoted from the enforcement, regulation side of it to advocacy. And, and yes, and what can we do to make Fort Lauderdale have an active and notable nighttime environment and destination? You know, that’s what draws employers. That’s what that’s where people want to live. The 20 minutes city, you want to be able to walk outside and, and go listen to live music and go to the restaurant or the library, take your kid to library at night. Wouldn’t it be great if our libraries didn’t close at four? You know, so these are the things that that we’re meant to do.

Ben Kittelson  12:24

Yeah. So that, okay, so maybe, can we start with like, transitioning from the responding and dealing with like, acute issues versus the engagement? Like, I guess maybe what, what did the job look like then? And like, was it really you’re up, like taking calls from business owners at 2am or?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  12:41

No, that that didn’t happen. That the city manager, that was happening with the city manager, he was getting, he was getting those calls, Yeah.

Ben Kittelson  12:48

So he’s texting you after he gets one of those.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  12:52

But since I had a team, now, they, they could deal with it. So we had set up a system where, you know, if you were having, if you had a complaint, you could call this number, and you would get somebody on our team to respond. So that actually worked pretty well. But we, you know, even at that point, we were doing more than just enforcing it’s, it’s developing a relationship with the businesses because this particular industry, especially the nightclub industry, they’re just not terribly trustful of government folks, with you know, and I get it. So it was building those relationships. So we had to have the, we couldn’t just have any old police officer or any old cold code officer out there. We had to have folks that were comfortable with that crowd. You know, comfortable talking to the bouncer and comfortable talking to the manager and the bartender and the drunk kid that just turned 21 you know, so that’s, that was a big part of it. But we spent a lot of time training the businesses, meeting with their staff to go over some just general public safety, low hanging fruit stuff that you can do. 

Ben Kittelson  14:02

Oh, interesting. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  14:03

You know, encourage and we have a big in Fort Lauderdale cell phone theft is huge. And it’s like, rings, professional rings come up from Miami. And they’ve got a whole system. They’ve got one guy that will distract him, distract the young female, usually, by talking with her dancing with her while her his partner is behind her grabbing her her phone from her purse or her back pocket. So we try to educate the the bar staff to don’t when when you see a customer lay their phone on the bar, tell them to put it away, don’t put your phone in your back pocket, don’t over serve. You know, just encourage people to or hang signs to lock your doors. A couple of the venues in Fort Lauderdale have this thing called an angel shot and they didn’t create it. I think there’s other cities that do it too. But they they put the signs up in the women’s restroom and they say if you’re being bothered or harassed, tell the bartender you want an angel shot. And then they’ll proceed to help you get out of whatever situation that you’re in, so we go over these things. And, you know, check out their perimeter to make sure that, you know, maybe they need to trim some hedges or so we tried to help by promoting some basic public safety measures for them. And so we weren’t we, our goal was not to shut them down and to enforce, the goal was to help them be successful.

Ben Kittelson  15:19

Yeah, help them do it the right way. And then like, if they have things that come up, you can help as needed.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  15:37

Yes, exactly. Exactly. And we had, you know, noise was, sound, I like to call it sound and not noise. But it’s a it’s a big issue. And what would typically happen traditionally happen is that a resident in a in a neighboring residential development would complain about the noise from a venue. And then they would call the city manager or their or their commissioner and say such and such a place is, is playing it, playing too loud. I can’t sleep, whatever the case may be. Well, we have a sound ordinance. And there’s allowable levels. And by having us out there dedicated to that, we would find that most of the time they were within the allowable level. 

Ben Kittelson  16:18

Oh, interesting. Yeah. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  16:20

So we were actually helping the businesses. By saying, by saying, Well, actually, they weren’t breaking the law. So that was very much appreciated. 

Ben Kittelson  16:30

That’s interesting. Yeah. Because otherwise, it’s kind of like a he he said, she said, like it’s loud.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  16:34

Yes, exactly. Yeah, exactly. 

Ben Kittelson  16:36

Interesting. So how did the maybe, so like, internally, when you had a staff yourself, and you could deploy people out, you know, in the night as things came up, how did that change when you no longer have a team dedicated, but you have to now maybe coordinate with other departments and collaborate to get the same kind of stuff done?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  16:52

Well, that’s where my my years of local government experience were very key. Yeah, were key. So I’m because of my past positions and my experience, I am pretty good at working with folks and getting their assistance and helping them and, you know, I know who to talk to, and I know who to ask. So when I when I lost the team, I then just had to rely on folks that don’t work for me anymore to get what I wanted, or what I, what the community needed. And because I’m in the city manager’s office, that’s helpful. So people know.

Ben Kittelson  17:29

Gives you a little authority. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  17:30

Yeah, it does. That’s, it’s very helpful. So it’s knowing who to ask. And, and having developed those relationships ahead of time, is also key. Because it’s hard to get folks to do what you need them to do when they don’t work for you. So it’s good to have that relationship already. And so even though I didn’t have police officers anymore, I had, I had developed relationships in the police department, just through my experience with the job. And so I was still able, I’m still able to call on them for assistance and partnerships and stuff like that.

Ben Kittelson  18:07

Yeah. Interesting. So what now and you know, if we were to look at your, your workweek or your work day, what does a typical day look like as a nighttime economy manager?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  18:16

So again, my probably my primary role is that of a liaison between the hospitality industry and the city. So I attend and participate in a lot of industry meetings. Beach, beach council meetings, restaurant lodging association meetings, downtown development authority meetings, govern Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance meetings, anything where I’m dealing with the business, Chamber of Commerce meetings, I go to a lot of networking opportunities, which this past year were mostly Zoom. Yeah. But it’s honestly about when this position started, I really didn’t have I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. So I created this job from scratch, really. And that’s not because I’m so wonderful, but I really didn’t, the direction wasn’t there. 

Ben Kittelson  19:15

It was a a new position, new role, right?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  19:16

Exactly. So I just started out by talking to everybody that I possibly could, all the big owners, all the big venue operators in town, the hotel operators, in developing those relationships. And again, because of my experience in local government, I’m able to help them navigate some things that maybe they didn’t know how to navigate. And so if they don’t know who to ask, they start with me.

Ben Kittelson  19:44

Yah. You’re a good link, point of contact for them.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  19:46

Yeah, I am. That’s what I try to be, that’s really my goal. And then I, you know, I’m trying to get them to create a position, a spot for them at the table. And the hospitality industry has tended to be The redheaded stepchildren of the economy. And this, this allows them, what I’m trying to do is get them an upgrade. So especially during the pandemic, that was that was critical that I was there, to hear them and hear what their concerns were, and then pass them on to the right people in the city to make the policy changes that needed to be made. And I I honestly believe that that link has always been missing. And that more that cities need to concentrate on that link. Yeah, yeah. So I did read that there are some some policy work associated with your role. So what’s an example I guess, of like, something that, you know, this, this industry is dealing with that like the city could change to make better that you’re able to kind of? Yeah, so a really good example was we used to have what we call extended hours permits. So in the state of Florida, you can sell alcohol till midnight, unless your municipality or jurisdiction allows you to, to sell it past midnight.

Ben Kittelson  21:02

But that takes a special permit to, Okay.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  21:04

Yes. So we had a special permit to allow you to sell past midnight. And a few years ago, we had, they had, before I got on board they had implemented into our code, that in order to get that permit, you had to make sure your own ship was in shape. So we’d send out code compliance folks to make sure that they were compliant with with all the codes. And if they were, we’d give them a permit. If they weren’t, we didn’t. It got to be really overwhelming in a, in a growing urban city, for one person to try to manage giving an extended hours permit. We probably just needed to let them serve past midnight. I mean, no, no permit. You can’t have the guy right here and then the guy next door to him not be able to do it, that causes problems. So we actually repealed the whole extended hours program. So now bars can stay open till two during the week and three on the weekend. 4am in the entertainment district without an extended hours permit. 

Ben Kittelson  22:15

Oh, wow. So it’s just a blanket. It just makes it easier for everybody.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  22:19

It’s streamlined. Yep, and very business friendly. So yeah, that’s something that we’re pretty proud of.

Ben Kittelson  22:24

That’s a really cool. And yeah, that makes their their life so much easier. Are there other like, I didn’t know I needed to talk to the city about this kind of things that you’re, I don’t know if that you have an example, offhand that like, oh, the planning department can help you with that, or solid waste can help you with that. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  22:39

All the time. Yeah. All the time. So, you know, we, my office is actually right above a bar in, in our entertainment, which is pretty cool. But that’s only been the last couple of months. I was in City Hall. But yeah, so my office is right above a bar. And we have a new venue opening right next to my office. And he had some questions about lighting for his signs and he didn’t know who to talk to, or, you know, bricks coming up in the sidewalk, or the tree roots coming up in the sidewalk, or, you know, my neighbor’s doing this or my neighbor’s doing that or illegally dumping mop water down the storm drain. I mean, these are things that you think, well, what does that have to do in the night, nighttime economy? Well, has everything do with the nighttime economy. So they don’t know what they don’t know and that’s kind of where I tried to come in and help. And then when they have no idea like, what’s the difference between an out sidewalk cafe and outdoor dining cafe? They’re two different permits? What what’s the, you know, so they start with me, and I can kind of lead them in the right direction.

Ben Kittelson  23:50

That’s fascinating. So you mentioned public safety and then, sounds like water sometimes and solid waste sometimes are the department you’re working with most frequently, and code enforcement. So are there, what is that relationship like? Are there, is there a department that you’re working with the most for these kind of things, or?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  24:09

I think that the key departments for a successful nighttime economy are transportation and planning. So there’s a principle for example, called CPTED, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design. And that’s by about creating space, safe space, space that separates your entertainment from public walkways and transparency, having having bus waiting spots that are solid, the cover not be a solid wall but something, a wall you can see through.

Ben Kittelson  24:49

So you can see what’s going on.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  24:50

So you don’t have people you know, having hedges and bushes that you can see around and cleanliness, maintenance are all part of public safety. And it’s so it’s nothing to do with law enforcement, but it’s about just your surroundings. Yeah. So, but transportation is also key. So you know, I often ask, our county bus system generally stops running at 10 o’clock at night. Well, what about the bartender that works till four? How is how is she supposed to get safely home? What are we doing to help those people that not only party, but work, go to school? You know, the nighttime third, third shift workers, hospitals, what are we doing to help them? It’s one thing to create bypass throughout the city. Are those bike paths going to work at night?

Ben Kittelson  25:46

Are they lit? Yeah.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  25:47

Yeah. Are they lit? are they safe? Because people want to be able to ride their bike, be able to walk. You know, you think about New York City. I typically don’t have a problem walking down the streets of Manhattan at midnight, by, even by myself, so but there’s definitely places in downtown Fort Lauderdale that you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that. So concentrating on on those things I think is, is critical. 

Ben Kittelson  26:14

That’s fascinating. And then, so you mentioned some maybe like, some educational things you’re doing around like that the police see. Are there, how do you I guess like maybe in a public admin like nitty gritty, like, are you meeting with them regularly to hear like, these are the trends we’re seeing, like, on crime in the nighttime, in the nighttime economy? Or like, how does that work? Where you’re translating from, like, the issues that the police are saying to now educating the community to be like this is what you should look out for.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  26:41

That, that’s, that’s would be ideal. Yeah, that’s the ideal situation. So I do now have access to regular crime trends. So I can see that but again, I’m a force of one with very limited, very limited funding. So regular conversations with the police department, I have my contacts within the police department and we talk about ways to we’re having some issues in our, one of our, in our busiest entertainment district right now. For example, we’ve had some shootings, some gang, some violent activity, a lot of people bringing down guns, and that sort of thing. So we’re trying to think of ways to stop the problems. They, you know, we brought in big flood, our bars close at four, so we brought in big floodlights that we turn on at three, hoping to calm the crowd down. We’ve talked about maybe having a speaker on the street playing Frank Sinatra, you know, at 3:30 it just kind of get everybody saying, oh, okay, I guess it’s time to go. Yeah, you know, because I remember when I was young, that’s what they would play, you know, stop spreading, start spreading the news by Frank Sinatra. So, yeah, so we talked about different things that that we might be able to do and, and right now actually, I’m working on revising our entertainment district ordinance to add some accountability, more operationally accountable criteria that’s, that’s because there’s a benefit to being in the entertainment district, you can stay up until four, or you can sell alcohol till four you can open carry your your alcohol in a plastic cup. Yeah. And there’s no liquor measurement, meaning you don’t have to be more than X amount of feet from another establishment selling alcohol. So if you behave, you can keep those benefits. If you don’t behave you lose those benefits. Oh, interesting. So that’s, that’s what we’re working on. That’s what I’m working on now.

Ben Kittelson  28:41

We’ll be right back to today’s episode. Gov Love is brought to you by Granicus. With upticks in post vaccine travel right around the corner, it’s time to address short term rentals in your community. Short term rentals are often found in sites like Airbnb and VRBO, and if you don’t have a short term rental regulation enforcement program in place, you could be missing out on tourism related tax revenue and risking damage to your community’s character. Granicus host compliance has helped over 350 communities with their short term rental challenges from address identification, to ordinance reviews and compliance monitoring. If you’d like to learn more about short term rental activity in your area or best practices for regulation and enforcement, visit granicus.com for a free consultation. That’s granicus.com for more information.

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Ben Kittelson  30:08

Um, how does the the nighttime economy stuff fit into like maybe the city’s overall economic development or like that kind of strategy?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  30:16

That link is something that I’m working on right now we’ve, the city has recently hired a new economic development manager. And so we’ve been working a lot together, developing that my, my kind of my stick is, is creating an 18 hour city. So an 18 hour city would be like Nashville, Seattle, Austin, Raleigh, North Carolina. Yeah. So a place that is like a 24 hour city, like in New York City, but maybe a few, few less hours of activity, the cost of living is more manageable, of not not great, but more manageable than New York City, for example. So that’s, that’s my thing that I’m working on is getting our elected officials and our stakeholders in the community to see the value of creating an 18 hour city so that we have more amenities available after five, more things to do after five, more service provision after five. And that’s, that’s where people want to be right now. You know, that’s, yeah.

Ben Kittelson  31:21

Interesting. And do you know, I mean, it’s obviously a new position when you started but like, was this created as a way to like, like, encourage the nighttime economy and like, we want to embrace this as a part of, you know, Fort Lauderdale’s identity, or was it more like we’re having issues someone needs to deal with this?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  31:36

I think it was probably more the latter. Although there was probably a little bit of the of the former also because they they did the study to look at the nighttime economy. But yeah, they’re, you know, there’s a lot of complainers. Fort Lauderdale has traditionally, historically been a sleepy town where folks go to retire. And they want to enjoy the sunshine and, you know, they don’t want to shovel snow anymore. So they they would come down to Fort Lauderdale. But we’re not your grandmother’s Fort Lauderdale anymore. You know, we we are a booming, happening, hip, trendy place that millennials want to live. And I think by creating this 18 hour cities, we’re going to attract more of those folks that want that kind of lifestyle, and the employers that will hire them.

Ben Kittelson  32:22

Yeah. Interesting. That’s fascinating. What are your like, I don’t know, what are your measures of success for like a nighttime economy program? is there is there anything that you’re like this, I know I’m doing a good job if these kinds of things are are going on?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  32:35

So a lot of cities have implemented a fiscal impact study. So they’ll they’ll measure their sales tax revenue, their employment numbers, that sort of thing to get a baseline, and then every couple of years, they’ll remeasure to see if they’ve made progress. So that’s one of the things I’ve been pushing for for three years is to get this fiscal impact study. So we know what we need to work on, and how we can build and see our progress. So I think that’s one measure. But you know, because that looks at nighttime employment, also, you know, the the nighttime shouldn’t take away from your daytime economy, it should compliment it and supplement it really. So that’s that’s one thing to look at. Reduced crime statistics are something that we can look at, fewer nuisances, fewer noise complaints, that sort of thing. Nighttime service provision, so maybe we, you know, we typically are a nine to five type of industry, and with a more vibrant nighttime economy and a more concentration, maybe we become a nine to nine, that kind of establishment where we’re offering some services past five o’clock.

Ben Kittelson  33:51

Yeah, yeah. The library is open late. Yeah, that kind of thing. Yeah.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  33:54

Well, and even even City Hall. You know, if we flex work schedules, that that sort of thing. I think. I think that it’s possible.

Ben Kittelson  34:04

Yeah, yeah. Now that I’ve always thought that makes a ton of sense. Like there are, if you’re trying, especially if you’re trying to engage with folks or serve people, like, you know, being open when they’re at work isn’t always the best way to do it. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  34:16

Right, Right. Exactly. Exactly. 

Ben Kittelson  34:18

So if another city were to call you and be like, we think we want to do a nighttime economy program. What advice would you give them like, where should they start? Or what what should they kind of what are the first few things they should do?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  34:29

They need to have the buy in of the people at the top. It’s great if they want to do it. But if their elected officials aren’t on board, or the city administration isn’t on board, you’re really not going to make any, any progress. I think that in the cities I’ve seen where it kind of started at a grassroots level, where the the industry, the hospitality industry, the creative industry, cultural industry said you know, we really need some help with this city, can, can you help us? You know, the City of London, a year or so ago, maybe a couple years ago, they did a, they, the, the mayor appointed a nighttime task force to look at ways to build up the nighttime economy in London. 

Ben Kittelson  35:20

Oh, interesting. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  35:21

And that’s they came up, they had all the heavy hitters in London, you know, CEOs of music corporations, and, you know, hotel gurus, and they had, you know, some heavy hitters on this commission, and they came up with list of 10 recommendations for what London should do to improve their nighttime economy, because that bar nightlife industry was basically cut in half over the last 10-15 years. 

Ben Kittelson  35:46

Oh, wow. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  35:46

So it’s getting that back, you know? And, and everyone’s gonna have different needs, because this is such a new concept, different people want different things. So you know, we we’ve been trying to map out a, here’s the rulebook for creating a nighttime economy program in your city. And that’s very hard to do, when different cities are looking for different things. So if your city’s just looking for somebody to handle the complaints, and all the problems they are having at night, that’s one thing. But if you’re like, you know, what, we want to become a live music city, we want to become the next Austin., you know, what, what do we need to do to go there? What do we need to do to get more artists to come to our community? Well, you got to have more affordable housing, you know, these artists aren’t rich, they and they, if you want more artists, you need to be able to help them live. So it’s what you’re what you’re trying to accomplish. And in that community, and you get that from talking to folks, What’s missing? What’s missing? What How can we help you?

Ben Kittelson  36:48

Yeah, interesting. That’s fascinating. And you touched on this a little bit, but the impact of COVID-19 has obviously been, of the pandemic was obviously felt like most acutely in in this exact economy. So what, what was that like for in Fort Lauderdale? Like, what was, I don’t know, what was that economy? How was that hit? And then like, what what did the city do? And how is it kind of, how is it now?

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  37:11

Well it was, we’ve probably fared better than most of the country, because the governor opened us wide up, way earlier than anybody else. So September 25th is when we were wide open, like 100% capacity. And just within the last couple of weeks, the rest of the nation is able to do that. So we actually found people migrating to Florida, to be able to-

Ben Kittelson  37:42

To operate. 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  37:42

Because you know, we have no COVID in Florida. So, you know, it’s good for business. Right? So it’s, it decimated us just as it did anybody else at the very beginning. And now, now that we’re back, what we’re finding is a labor shortage crisis, it’s been, from what I hear, understand, it’s worse than it’s ever been, this crisis. And you know, that’s three fold. You know, one, people aren’t comfortable coming back to work, yet. They’re still caring for family members. There’s still a pandemic, maybe not in Florida, but there’s still a pandemic. Number two, when they lost their job, they pivoted and they found different work. And number three, especially on the lower end paid people, they were getting just as much if not more with unemployment than they were working. So why, why go back to work? So it’s created a real tension and conflict between labor and management, on on this issue, and it’s, it’s interesting, because my relationships have been with the venue operators and the managers and the owners, but I’m finding that I’m empathizing more and more with the employees and how, what’s come out of this is how absolutely vital employees are to making money for your company. And I’ve had managers tell me stories about, they have a bunch of empty tables in their restaurant, but they can’t fill them because they don’t have enough people to work them. And having to deal with very angry people that want to come in and eat and being told they can’t eat because they don’t have enough people to work. So which I think is interesting because if you want to make money if you want to fill those tables, you’re going to need the employees 

Ben Kittelson  39:39

So, I’m curious though, so I know when we were going through your career path that you spent some time in Key West, did any of like either that stop or another city that you were at, did any of that experience inform maybe like how you would do your job now, like, because obviously there are some of these other cities in the in South Florida are are also have nighttime economies or active places for folks, so just curious if your career has informed that at all.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  40:03

It has actually. So part of the reason I got the job in Fort Lauderdale is because I’d been in Key West.

Ben Kittelson  40:09

They’re like, you know about this stuff.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  40:11

Right. If anybody knows about this, it’s somebody from Key West so yeah. So yeah, absolutely. But you know, Devall Street is the bread and butter of, of Key West. And they were, you know, Irma wiped them out. And then they just and then the pandemic on top of that, you know, it’s it’s a real struggle down there right now. So yeah, for sure. All my all my government experiences really has really helped with this. 

Ben Kittelson  40:39

Interesting. Okay. What’s next? Is there anything you’re working on, like, I don’t know, policy wise that might impact folks visiting Fort Lauderdale after five or impact the nighttime economy.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  40:49

Yeah, but you know, I talked a little bit about the the ordinance amendment that I’m working on for the entertainment districts to to create you know, that I’m trying to get them to understand that it’s not meant to to put our thumb on them but to actually make their their area more vibrant. You know, I I heard a great quote a couple months ago, weren’t we don’t serve drinks, we serve customers. So you know, our late night area tends to be the get drunk quick and cheap. And it caters more to my generation, the Gen Xers that’s what we did. But this this generation is different. They’re, they’re looking for an experience. And not just cheap shots. So and a lot of them don’t even drink. You know, the, the millennials are a teetotaling generation and it’s so that’s, that’s very interesting. So it’s it’s trying to encourage an experience over you know, late night, booze and loud music.

Ben Kittelson  41:50

Interesting. That’s fascinating Alright, so our traditional last question on the podcast is, if you could be a Gov Love DJ, what song would you pick as the exit music for this episode? And even though you’ve been in Key West, you don’t have to pick a Jimmy Buffet song if you don’t want to.

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  42:01

Good, because I wasn’t gonna. Scenes from Italian Restaurant or Billy Joel, of course.

Ben Kittelson  42:06

That’s perfect. Awesome. Well, that ends our episode for today, Sarah, thank you so much for coming on and talking me. This has been fascinating. I love diving deep on someone’s job like this, especially when it’s such a unique role. So 

Sarah Hannah-Spurlock  42:18

Oh, great! Thanks for having me, Ben. This was fun. 

Ben Kittelson  42:21

And for our listeners, Gov Love is brought to you by Engaging Local Government Leaders. You can reach us online at ELGL.org/GovLove or on Twitter at the handle @GovLovePodcast. Subscribe to Gov Love on your favorite podcast app. And if you are already subscribed, go tell a friend or colleague about this podcast. Help us spread the word that Gov Love is the go to place for local government stories. Thanks for listening. This has been Gov Love, a podcast about local government.


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