Las Olas Boulevard & Isles magazine
April 2018

Fort Lauderdale staffs a team to manage the ‘nighttime economy’

While Fort Lauderdale might be widely known for its nightlife, from the early days of Spring Break bars to the high-end Las Olas restaurants of today, there’s never been someone at City Hall directly in charge of managing it.

Unit now. Last year, the city set aside an  entire department to be managed by its new nighttime economy manager, Sarah Hannah-Spurlock.

A veteran local government employee, Hannah-Spurlock previously worked for Sunrise, Key West, and briefly for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. We reached out to hear more about her new position.


Amsterdam is credited with inventing the “night mayor” position in 2014, and it has spread to cities worldwide. What have you learned from those efforts?

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to meet Mirik Milan from Amsterdam and other nighttime economy managers and hear them speak about their efforts. One of my biggest takeaways would be the necessity of partnering and vibrant and safe after-hours life that builds on what Fort Lauderdale already offers. Without their commitment, creativity energy, and passionate contribution, all we have is a bunch of government regulation.

Second, we need to realie that “nightlife” doesn’t refer only to a part scene but rather a life where  a significant segment of the population works, lives, and plays after five. It’s important that we address their needs as well.

Third, the nightlife isn’t something to be feared and shut down, but rather nurtured and improved. A nightlife with activity for a diverse demographic leads to a safer and more desirable destination and social experience for both neighbors and guests.

Ft. Lauderdale at nighttime

How will the $1.4 million set aside yearly for Fort Lauderdale’s nighttime management team be used?

This budget is to fund a team of 11, which includes the nighttime economy manager, a police lieutenant, three police officers, a public safety aide, a fire captain, a senior code compliance officer, a parks foreman, and two maintenance workers.

You’ll likely hear far differing opinions around town, from those who want bars and restaurants to close earlier and be quieter, to those who want to increase business for them. How to you balance that?

That is the question. That balancing act is not unique to Fort Lauderdale. Urban cities all over the world struggle with it. The only way to tackle the issue is by including all parties in the discussion. Residents, business owners, and city officials must all take responsibility and ownership for developing the kind of city and economy we want. The first step is the acknowledgement that we all love Fort Lauderdale, and we all want what is best for our fabulous community. So let’s focus on what we all love and make it better.

A thriving city must have a thriving economy. And a successful daytime economy is not possible without a successful nighttime economy, and vice versa. People don’t just leave their home to go to work Monday through Friday, nine to five. All people are out in the community both during the day and into the evening hours, and they want to feel safe and they want to enjoy themselves any time they leave their home. If both the daytime and nighttime economies aren’t thriving, that will not be possible. Then we identify the issues and concerns on both sides and work towards resolving them, together.

Ft. Lauderdale at nighttime Will you be keeping nighttime hours yourself and frequenting bars and restaurants to understand the issues?

I’ll be spending a portion of my time observing and experiencing the life of the night. However, most of the people I work with, such as other city officials and business leaders, still work during the day. So that is when I’ll be working as well. I do anticipate that my team will be working nighttime hours.

For a local business owner or  resident, what kind of benefits will they see from your work?

A more concerted effort to address the needs and challenges they may be experiencing at night and on the weekends in a proactive rather than reactive manner. Also I hope they benefit from the opportunity to offer more of their talents, passion, and ideas to designing the perfect nighttime and daytime economy.

Contact Nightime Economy Manager Sarah Hannah-Spurlock at 954-828-5085, or