Philadelphia’s new night economy director wants you all to know that he doesn’t party all the time.
As the city’s first director of Night Economy, one would think that Raheem Manning’s most important job was getting to the top clubs.
While he plans to spend some time on the bar scene, he will also meet hospital staff, SEPTA staff, police officers, night security, and cleaning crews while they are on the job. He would listen to their concerns and take them to the city’s department of commerce to outline a plan to make the night in Philadelphia the time for everyone.
“I’m the liaison between Philadelphia’s night companies and City Hall,” said the 33-year-old Overbrook High School graduate. “I’m here to make sure life after five is inclusive and innovative.”
Think of him as “the mayor of Philadelphia’s nightlife.”
Manning’s first duty is to create a strategic plan outlining how government officials and business owners can work together to make Philadelphia as dynamic at 2 am as it is at 2 pm, which is difficult, he knows. But the goal is to have it accomplished by the end of 2023.
The city announced Manning’s job Thursday, the same day that Philadelphia learned of the 76ers’ plan to build an 18,500-seat stadium on the market between 10th and 11th Streets. If the plan is approved, it will take nine years to develop and build the stadium to be ready for the 2031-32 NBA season. It will also take that long for the city to clean up the East Market Street corridor and make Cipta a 24-hour transportation hub, all the things the city needs to do if the project has any chance of success.
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“I’m advocating for someone who wants to come into the game but then needs to know, how do I get home and where do I park my car?” Manning said.
Even if the city doesn’t get a new Center City stadium, it’s important that Philadelphia focus on our round-the-clock experience, including those who leave home after 5 p.m. for happy hour and dine after work for a full day. Why leave the comfort of your home if getting around the house isn’t easy or convenient?
“Ultimately we want to turn Philadelphia into a 24-hour city,” he said.
Manning grew up in Winfield. He left in 2007 to attend Clark Atlanta University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He spent his early adult years in Peachtree in the professional party scene. He also traveled abroad to cities such as Sydney and Barcelona and lived a bit in Shanghai.
“I’ve seen how other cities are developing ecosystems around nightlife,” Manning said, adding, “It’s time for Philadelphians to be proactive about how we move at night, and not continue to view it as an afterthought.”
He returned to Philadelphia in 2013 and two years later started his own business, The Weekender, a travel and entertainment management company. In 2020, he was named co-chair of the Philadelphia Art and Culture Task Force, which made recommendations for improving the city’s art scene. The creation of a night economy manager was one of those recommendations. Manning plans to step down as CEO of his company in the coming months.
Other cities with night economy managers include New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.
In his new role, Manning said he would look beyond the city center and consider the needs of residents in the entire city. These communities also need better lighting and parking facilities so that their nightlife also thrives. And when it comes to safety, Manning asserts, “I can’t say this enough: I’m the link between businesses and all city entities, including the police department.”