Investing in nightlife — in this economy? Yes, actually. With an eye on arts and culture as a job creator and magnet for young people moving to the area, Philly is on a quest to become a 24-hour city.
Enter the night mayor.
OK, that’s not Raheem Manning’s actual title. Officially, he’s Philadelphia’s night time economy director, working under the Department of Commerce. But “night mayor” is what the position is called in a lot of other cities around the country, and the world.
Now that Philly has gotten with the program, Manning feels more than ready to take on the challenge. The 33-year-old served a couple years co-chairing the city’s Arts and Culture Task Force, and he literally built a business around planning an epic experience. Weekender Experiences, the West Philadelphia-based company he founded in 2015, helps young professionals map out unique vacations, and does entertainment and event management.
Now, as a government employee, he has a new client: Philly’s party people.
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Manning has been to over 200 cities across the globe. A lot of them, he told Billy Penn, are grappling with the sharp drop-off in people coming into the city for work, and trying to revive nightlife businesses that were decimated in the pandemic.
“People are working 9 to 5 on their couch, and they want to go out and have dinner, maybe have a drink or meet friends,” he said. “We have to put together a plan and add support [for those businesses] because that’s going to be the way of the future.”
In the role, he’ll be working with other city agencies, as well as all the businesses that operate after dark and the people who need services at night. That’s not just bars and partiers, he clarified in several news interviews, but also late commuters, night shift workers and transportation providers.
Still, knowing the party scene is a pretty important part of the night mayor’s job, so we quizzed Manning to get a sense of his taste. Does he know which Philly spots have “feral” energy? We’ll let you be the judge.
Cocktail of choice? An Old Fashioned with Woodford Reserve
Favorite beer? El Presidente, it’s a Dominican beer, but my favorite local beer is Yuengling.
[Ed note: It’s made in Pennsylvania, so it’s definitely more local.]
Where would you go for SIPS? I’ve been going to Uptown Beer Garden this season.
The Philly bar where everybody knows your name? Bleu Brook in West Philly, by my house
I’ve been meaning to check out… LMNO in Northern Liberties
Favorite place to eat after midnight? Ishkabibbles
Bar with the best view? JG Sky High
Best place for a night out by yourself? Silk City. Good food, good drinks, there’s always some people there. It’s vibrant.
Favorite concert venue? In the city it’s gonna be World Cafe Live.
Favorite concert? The Roots Picnic, when it used to be at Festival Pier, when Usher headlined and DMX was there.
Philly’s best hidden gem is… Its neighborhoods.
Explain? Each neighborhood in the city has amazing places that you can go eat, drink and listen to music. And I think a lot of people don’t really leave their neighborhood, or they go downtown looking for it. But I’ll go to Baltimore Ave., and I can be at Aksum on Baltimore Ave., or Booker’s. Or I can go to Lancaster Avenue and go to Bleu Brook. Or I can go to Northern Liberties and go to a place like Saint Lazarus. I love the neighborhood bars before jumping downtown.
I love when my Uber driver… Gets me where I’m going and talks minimally.
If I’m not partying in Philly, I want to be in… Ibiza, Spain