Dallas, TX-24HourDallas is teaming up with other ambassadors in North Texas to establish innovative approaches in fostering better relationships between Dallas’ nighttime businesses and their neighbors.
“This is really unique,” said Randall White, 24HourDallas founder and president. “Nobody is doing what we’re doing. There have been targeted versions of this done elsewhere, or versions targeting just bars, but nobody is doing this comprehensive grassroots initiative that’s being led by a nonprofit organization.”
24HourDallas, a grassroots organization committed to improving Dallas’ nighttime profile, and its partnering organizations will host a Good Neighbor Initiative Roundtable at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 7 at the Omni Dallas Hotel.
“The most rewarding parts of seeing 24HourDallas evolve has probably been watching the light bulbs go off all across Dallas City Hall as to the great opportunity that serving the nighttime economy can bring to making Dallas a truly international city,” White said. “And, how much we’ve been blind to that opportunity, even have worked against it, over the past several years.
A key component of the initiative, called A Safe Night Out, aims to educate and motivate business owners on how they can help make their establishments safer for their patrons and employees. That program is receiving a grant for its work in Dallas from Responsibility.org.
“It should motivate late-night businesses to see the steps they can take to own the quality of life in their surrounding neighborhoods and equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to do just that,” White said. “It should instill pride in those establishments that earn our Copper Star certification in 2022 and beyond. It should help the city overall to better appreciate what the nighttime economy brings to Dallas and highlight the stumbling blocks that suppress that economy. Overall, we should see the program lead to higher tax revenue for the city of Dallas as nighttime businesses open and thrive.”
24HourDallas’ main objectives are to make downtown feel safer, more interesting, more inclusive and more culturally exciting for people who patronize entertainment districts between 6 pm and 6 am.
The Good Neighbor Initiative is sponsored by Pernod Ricard USA, one of the world’s premier spirits and wine producers. The corporation is also a founding member of Responsibility.org, which leads meaningful conversations on responsible alcohol consumption across the United States and has helped to significantly reduce the harmful use of alcohol in the U.S. over the past 30 years.
“We’ve learned that the most effective ways to tackle complex issues are through multifaceted, community-based partnerships,” said Camilla Guiguer, Director, Sustainability & Responsibility, Pernod Ricard North America. “This is why we’re excited about The Good Neighbor Initiative organized by 24HourDallas – it’s a partnership with multiple stakeholders – including the police, city council, restaurant owners, bar owners, bar and restaurant staff, community leaders, cultural ambassadors and more—who all are committed to providing a safer night out.”
How 24HourDallas has evolved over the years
About six years ago, Dallas Uptown restaurant and bar owners needed help. The Uptown area, having been a lively bar and restaurant destination, was being negatively impacted by rapid residential growth. Bar owners were increasingly dealing with parking shortages, noise complaints and crime.
“A few years ago, a consulting client asked me to motivate restaurant industry professionals to push back against legislation at Dallas City Hall that would have forced restaurants to slog through several bureaucratic obstacles just to stay open after midnight,” White said. “We stopped that legislation, which politicians had drafted without any input from the restaurant industry in Dallas at all.”
White was intrigued by the dynamism in a city’s nighttime economy and ways to simultaneously promote safety and vitality. That led him to launch 24HourDallas.
At its core, 24HourDallas is about feeling safe and welcome. The organization knows that physical tools like better lighting and more accessible transportation will always play a pivotal role, but the ultimate goal is to positively transform Dallas’ after-hours culture.
In 2017, the Great Dallas Restaurant Association began studying the 2014 actions of Sydney, Australia. There, the New South Wales government had applied a citywide mandate called the “lock-out law” by Sydneysiders. Its objective was to reduce alcohol-fueled violence by installing bar curfews in popular areas and restricting when alcohol could be served. From that perspective, the law was successful. However, the law also damaged the city’s tax base and tourism numbers. Nearly 200 licensed bars went out of business and the city’s nighttime economy lost $16 million annually. In January of 2020, the New South Wales government put an end to the lockout laws.
During this time, the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association also became aware of the “night mayor” trend in Europe. In places like Berlin and Amsterdam, local governments hired a city point person to address issues that crop up at night. Members of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association helped send the GDRA’s government affairs consultant to attend the inaugural Global Cities After Dark conference in Sydney. The idea of 24HourDallas grew from that conference and connections.
On Jan. 4, 2020, the 24HourDallas volunteer team held its first meeting with 60 attendees including representatives from 30 businesses and organizations. Within in a month, the team grew to 100 volunteers and 50 entities working in seven action areas to serve the mission of 24HourDallas: creating a safe, vibrant and diverse nighttime culture for businesses, residents and guests.
White said the best part of organizing 24HourDallas is bringing together a group of diverse individuals who have acquired a passion for the nighttime economy. These individuals are diverse in terms of age, skills, ethnicity, where in the Dallas area they live and/or work, and their respective job industries.
“We have faith leaders, real estate developers, corporate accountants, bar owners, public affairs consultants and hospitality executives, among others, under our umbrella,” he said. “By far, it’s our commitment to diversity and inclusivity that is probably our greatest strength.”
Shortly thereafter, COVID-19 put a significant damper on the initiative beginning in March of 2020 when Dallas County officials declared a local disaster in response to the pandemic after 13 people were affected in North Texas. Within a week, Dallas and Dallas County ordered all bars, lounges, taverns, gyms and theaters to close. Restaurants were required to close their dining rooms and only provide takeout or drive-thru service.
The pandemic was highly damaging to Dallas’ sociable economic drivers – restaurants, hotels, cultural organizations, special events and tourism. As these industries recover, 24HourDallas leaders plan to help restore and advance those aspects of urban life that have been most affected. Like many nonprofits around the world, 24HourDallas’ all-volunteer organization became a virtual enterprise.
On May 28, 2020, 24HourDallas received its 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit designation from the IRS. Any Dallas business interest, nonprofit organization or government agency who supports and shares that mission can join the 24HourDallas alliance. Any individual who supports that mission and would like to help shape the future of Dallas’ nighttime economy can volunteer. Although 24HourDallas is a private sector led nighttime commission, it does have representation from Dallas City Hall among its team members.
On Nov. 16, 2020, 24HourDallas had its first annual member meeting online, at which time the organization adopted bylaws, approved a board of directors, and elected 2021 officers. 24HourDallas also organized a 24-hour streaming telethon to raise funds for performing artists who were sidelined by the pandemic.
Dallas Digithon raised more than $20,000. Through monthly Zoominars, 24HourDallas kept issues and opportunities pertaining to the nighttime economy in front of members and supporters. And, thanks to Directions Consulting Group, volunteers spent six months developing a strategic plan for 24HourDallas.
The most significant proposals to come from the plan, its volunteers, and nighttime economy partners is about to be revealed at the next meeting on Dec. 7 at the Omni.