Ariel Palitz, Founding Director Of The New York City Office Of Nightlife

As Founding Director of the New York City Office of Nightlife (or the “First Nightlife Mayor”), Ariel Palitz has taken her passion for the city’s bars, restaurants, and clubs to the utmost, implementing multiple programs for neighborhood safety and business innovation over the last five years. Now, looking toward her next move after leaving the office this April, she shares her insights on the future of cannabis consumption lounges in the Big Apple.

ARIEL PALITZ: I think there is a lot of positive potential for the future of NYC nightlife when it comes to onsite consumption lounges. We know that there is a long history of use of cannabis in social venues – they go hand in hand with entertainment, dancing, and music. Historically, there has always been a risk of incarceration or licensed businesses getting shut down due to its presence. But now with the prospects of legal social consumption, the doors are opening for creativity, commerce and culture that can be safe, transparent and profitable. We think this will provide even more options to the nightlife landscape that is reflective of gatherings that have traditionally taken place in shadows.

Ariel Palitz (C) NYC Office of Nightlife

How could onsite consumption lounges participate in public education and messaging? Is that necessary for their success?

New York is still in the planning stages of what consumption lounges could be, and I think there is a lot of opportunity to ensure that proper education and guidance are available. I love the idea of having “BudTenders” or a “Ganjier” in place of a sommelier… why not? Like wine or beer professionals, knowing cannabis is a craft and skill and an important element in this emerging field, first for safety and education, but also for connoisseurs.

Do you think the emergence of cannabis consumption lounges would take people away from bars and nightclubs? Would there ever be a future in which we could have an all-in-one: bar, cannabis consumption lounge, nightclub, restaurant?

I actually don't think that the emergence of cannabis consumption will necessarily take people away from bars and clubs because there will always be different strokes for different folks. Some people want to go drinking and dancing, some people want to be smoking and lounging, and that could change for the same person from time to time. The whole purpose of having a legal market is to decriminalize the human behavior that people have been engaging in for decades based on their own evolving preferences, and to be able to make legal, social and viable places for them to do so.

I know there are many ongoing conversations in the cannabis market as well as with nightlife entrepreneurs about the hope to have both cannabis and alcohol combined in one place, as is sometimes the case in underground community dance, music and art venues, but it is currently prohibited. Ultimately it is up to the State and Department of Health to assess the pros and cons of creating laws and regulations that would allow for New Yorkers to safely consume and socialize as many have historically done in legacy spaces.

Ariel Palitz (C) NYC Office of Nightlife

What do you hope to see in the future of cannabis being incorporated into NYC nightlife?

What I would have hoped to see is already happening as far as a greater sense of safety and freedom to participate in consuming cannabis without fear or risk of being arrested when stepping out of a venue to smoke a joint. That assurance has been a tremendous relief for many in the nightlife industry. As far as my hopes for what’s next, I am extremely optimistic that this emerging legal and regulated chapter of cannabis is opening the door to a whole new world of possibilities for creative culture and commerce that is also a foundation for equity and justice.

For more information about the New York City Office of Nightlife, visit the department website here or follow @nycnightlifegov. To learn more about Ariel Palitz, follow @arielpalitz on Instagram.

A version of this article was originally published in Honeysuckle's 16th print edition. Click here to get your copy now!

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Ariel Palitz

NYC Office of Nightlife

Office of Cannabis Management


Featured image: Ariel Palitz (C) NYC Office of Nightlife