Something is happening downtown at Division and Main, and across the wider East End. Drive through that intersection on a Friday or Saturday late night (or early morning), and you might wonder why so many people are gathered at such an ungodly hour.
It turns out that this area has in recent years grown into our region’s most significant and busiest nightlife destination. The bars anchored by what has at times been derisively called the Division and Main intersection––Borracho, Globe Bar and Kitchen, and Fast Eddie’s––have become the go-to destination for late-night debauchery. And other pockets around downtown have developed a following––places from the tiny-and-grungy Riff to the popular, inclusive dancing destination nYne. In sum, we have enough bars and nightclubs––and enough patrons––in Spokane that the old trope that downtown closes at 9 p.m. could not be further from the truth.
But how are we thinking about this new late-night economy?
How are people getting downtown and back? Are they relying on expensive Lyfts and Ubers? Are they driving and choosing designated drivers? Spokane Transit historically has not provided much service past 11 p.m., but this is set to change in coming months as Saturday service extends later into the night. But we could still do more. Through-the-night bus service, at least on the most popular routes, should be explored to give partygoers an inexpensive, safe option and for all of the workers who keep Spokane going into the night and early morning. And West Main near the Saranac could be closed to vehicles to make it easier for pedestrians to walk around.
How are we thinking about inclusivity in our nightlife scene? Do women, minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community feel safe and at ease? The patrons of the Division and Main intersection of bars have given rise to the derisive “Bromuda Triangle” name, but we should be exploring ways to ensure that everyone, at minimum, feels safe and comfortable. Could we offer, say, a “safe walk” program, which would provide a walking buddy to downtown residences or onward transportation? Are there opportunities to partner with bars to develop discreet ways to summon security, as has been attempted in some Australian communities?
And what other resources do we need to provide these partygoers? We have an incredible daytime food scene, which this issue seeks to highlight. Let’s unleash these chefs’ creativity on the late-night scene by giving them more options and creative opportunities for collaboration. Perhaps by partnering with the daytime food economy, we could better use existing resources––food trucks, kitchens, and physical restaurants––across 24 hours.
Some cities have expanded this idea even wider by electing a Night Mayor––a single individual devoted solely to promoting, expanding, and managing the nighttime environment.
We may not be quite at that point yet, but as the nightlife scene expands and Spokane becomes a 24-hour city, let’s consider how we can better support this growing sector of our economy.
Anthony Gill is a Spokane native and graduate of Santa Clara University. He is the editor of Spokane Rising, an urbanist blog focused on ways to make Spokane a better place to live.