Night-time’s fine, daytime’s not: new committee to bridge city’s economic gap

Night-time’s fine, daytime’s not: new committee to bridge city’s economic gap
David Schout

With the council’s “night-time economy” committee set to lapse, it has shifted focus to boosting day time trade.

The City of Melbourne is set to create a new committee focused on boosting the city’s 9am to 5pm economy, which continues to struggle in the post-COVID era.

As Melbourne’s night-time economy thrives, the council has created a “City Economy Advisory Committee” to advise on the challenges facing daytime trade, and bridge the gap between the two.

The move, which was expected to be endorsed at a June 27 council meeting, comes as new research further revealed a gap between the two economies.

New inflation-adjusted data revealed that night-time spending was 12 per cent higher in April 2023 compared with April 2019.

Conversely, spending during business hours in April 2023 was 15 per cent below April 2019.

The research also showed that morning commuter activity (between 6am and 9am) at Flinders St was currently at around 60 per cent of the pre-COVID benchmark.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the council was determined to bring those figures closer together. 

“Melbourne’s economy after dark is booming and our night-time traders are reaping the rewards,” she said.

“[However] we know Melbourne’s rhythm has changed, and we want to cement Melbourne as a true 24-hour city – giving all of our traders the opportunity to grow and succeed.”

“Our new City Economy Advisory Committee will look to capitalise on our city’s night-time successes – giving locals and visitors more reasons to come in early and stay late, making a full day and night of it in the city.”

Despite the rising cost of mortgage repayments and rent across the nation, Melbourne’s visitor economy continues to return strong numbers.

However, the wide adoption of a hybrid working model since the pandemic, which sees employees work some days in the office and some at home, has impacted certain businesses throughout the city.

A report from management to council spelled out the difficulties faced: “There is a strong symbiotic relationship between small businesses in ‘amenity’ sectors such as retail, hospitality, personal services (e.g., dry cleaning) and office-based sectors such as financial services, professional services, information technology/telecommunications and public administration,” it read. •

“An active, ‘buzzy’ city is attractive to office workers, while office workers are also key customers for amenity businesses.”

The permanency of these shifts remained a key question as to the future of the city’s day-time economy, as spelled out in the report: “Are current patterns of work a temporary legacy of the pandemic or are they a ‘new normal’?” It asked.

The council’s City Activation portfolio chair Cr Roshena Campbell said a renewed focused was needed. 

“We’re delighted that pedestrian activity in key night-time precincts continues to exceed pre-pandemic levels, but we know the city’s nine-to-five rhythm has not fully recovered,” she said. 

“It is vital we do everything we can to ensure our weekday economy rebounds and grows by driving visitation to the city.”

In late 2020 the council established a “Night-Time Economy Advisory Committee” as a COVID-19 measure to prop up an ailing arts, hospitality and live music sector.

The committee in its current form was set to lapse on June 30 as it had “now largely served its purpose”, however was set to be replaced with periodic “deep dive” roundtable discussions rather than regular committee meetings.

These “topic-specific” half-day gathering would be held two to three times annually and focus specifically on, for example, live music, noise, or city safety.

“I’m proud of the role the committee has played in providing expertise and advice to boost the city’s economy after dark,” chair Penny Miles said. 

“This new approach of in-depth roundtables will ensure the industry can work through some of our biggest challenges and opportunities to continue to build on the spectacular night-time momentum.”

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