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‘Ottawa is the city that fun’s going to remember’: Ottawa hires new ‘Night Mayor’

Mathieu Grondin is Ottawa’s new ‘Night Mayor.”

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe introduced Grondin as Ottawa’s new ‘nightlife commissioner’ on Tuesday, who will be tasked with helping to shape the city’s nightlife and shaking off the city’s image as the ‘town that fun forgot.’

“I think Ottawa is the city that fun’s going to remember,” Grondin said.

Grondin was born and raised in Montreal. He was the founder and director general of the non-profit organization MTL 24/24.

“I have a lot of experience in nightlife governance and this job is about policy making. I spent the last five years being a strategic partner with the City of Montreal to develop the nighttime economy in Montreal,” Grondin said. “This is my expertise – I’ve been going around the world, I’ve been studying nightlife management in other cities.”

Council voted last year to introduce a new Ottawa Nightlife Economy Action Plan, focusing on leisure, live entertainment and cultural activities during the 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. period, and looking beyond just bar and restaurant activity.  The strategy will focus on “safety, cultural tourism/industry initiatives, economic development and commercial vibrancy.”

The new nightlife economy plan includes the creation of the ‘Nightlife Commissioner’s Office’, with the nightlife commissioner tasked with working with businesses, city officials, regulators and the public to develop and implement a plan to support Ottawa’s 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. economy.

“Ottawa’s economy is at a major inflection point right now,” Sutcliffe said. ” We are facing significant threats, but I believe we are also presented with some unique and exciting opportunities.”

Grondin says he’s looking forward to working with staff on the new Ottawa Nightlife Economy Action Plan, and will listen and speak with many stakeholders in the weeks and months ahead.

“I am not the night mayor, but I beyond humbled and excited to stand before you as Ottawa’s first-ever nightlife commissioner,” Grondin told reporters at Ottawa City Hall, adding he will be moving to Ottawa for the position.

“I feel fortunate to have the support of the mayor’s office, city senior leadership and the economic development services team as I lead the implementation of the nightlife economy action plan and identify new opportunities to drive economic and cultural growth and prosperity after hours.”

Grondin comes to Ottawa from Montreal and is urging patience as he implements the new plan.

“I’m not going to tell you today what needs to be done to downtown. I just got here, it’s my second day on the job,” Grondin said.

“I want to take the time to feel the beat of the city; give me a few months and we’ll discuss that later at the end of summer.”

The City of Ottawa outlined Grondin’s experience in a memo to council.

“Mathieu is widely recognized as a global leader in nightlife advocacy with more than 10 years of experience focusing on issues and opportunities related to nighttime governance and the nightlife economy,” Sheilagh Doherty, interim director of Economic Development Services, said in a statement.

“Since 2017, he has worked as the founder and director general of MTL 24/24, a non-profit organization that advocates for improved nightlife in Montreal.”

The nightlife commissioner’s salary is $112,000 a year.

When asked why he wanted to be the city’s first nightlife commissioner, Grondin said, “I wanted this job because cities must create this position to take care of nightlife.

“It’s important for cities to have a vibrant cultural life at night, it’s a great way to retain the workforce, socialized youth drive commercial and cultural growth and Ottawa is the leader, is at the forefront of nightlife governance in Canada.”

Grondin graduated from Concordia University in 2004 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Grondin and MTL 24/24 are credited with spearheading several initiatives in Montreal, including all-night-parties and Nuit Blanche. MTL 24/24 received funding from the city of Montreal between 2020 and 2023. 

A report released by the organization in 2022 called on Montreal to grant 24-hour liquor licenses to bars and restaurants, and “consider adding as a condition for these new 24-hour licenses a commitment to present programming that showcases the local cultural scene.”

The organization also recommended restructure zoning in certain areas to facilitate the location of nightlife cultural projects.

The report, called “Montreal 24 Hours: An Economic Report on the City’s Sociocultural Nightlife,” said if Montreal’s nightlife tourism grew from 22 per cent to 33 per cent of all tourists to the city, an additional $676 million would be injected into the economy.

“Montreal must encourage and maintain dialogue and collaboration amongst nightlife economic actors, residents, and night owls,” the report said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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