The current economic climate, social discord, and global pandemic have left their mark on many urban sprawls and trendy downtown hotspots. The places where the masses once gathered to walk down crowded streets are ghost towns after dark. Lines around the block waiting on a show, a play, the ballet, a concert, etc. are temporarily non-existent. The night-life dichotomy between cities and outlying suburban areas is undergoing a paradoxical paradigm shift. People are staying closer to their homes, burroughs, communities, and THE BURBS.
As businesses in highly populated cities are allowing employees to work remotely to limit building capacity,and bars and restaurants are only serving limited capacity with fewer patrons than they were accustomed to serving before COVID, the new “B.C.”, it would seem, these businesses are feeling the financial impact. The commercial real estate in these areas is becoming less and less affordable at lower occupancy rates and the independent, local businesses that were once staples of these metropolitan entertainment districts are being forced to shut their doors and look into alternative means of sustainability. While in many ways, historically, this type of event paves the way for gentrification and for bringing in larger restaurant and retail chains with the financial resources to weather economic downturns, it also takes away the “cool factor” of going downtown to that new hip, chic, trendy place that attracts any given city’s elite socialites and those “in-the-know”.
A shift in the force or a cyclical trend?
Is it the perspective of a middle-aged man in his 40’s or is it a fact, that the suburbs we used to mock as vanilla and boring during our younger years are now becoming “cool”? The local watering holes in outlying areas are now attracting young people from the inner city as a location destination for the night, instead of the typical downtown bar hopping scene, B.C..
They seem content to find a cool, vibey spot in the burbs where they can park it for a night, eat some good food, and be entertained without ever having to leave THAT spot. There are also the suburban areas that embrace a good old pub crawl atmosphere and have begun a resurrection of old town buildings that were ready to be condemned and turning old suburban towns into very fun, navigable, outlying subsets of the typical suburban strip mall or business centre.
The more interesting part of this observation is the speculation of “why” this is happening and the answers are actually quite logical and less of a paradox than one might imagine. Most of the perceivably cool cities throughout the U.S. are also the fastest-growing as they are highly desirable with better-paying jobs, at least B.C., and that feeds the food and beverage industry. The service industry has experienced the most severe impact in 2020 as a result of COVID and commercial rents have not exactly dropped, according to what we are seeing on the news and within the areas that we all live. Therefore food and beverage businesses are being forced to shut their doors, many of them for good. That leaves a large segment of the population wanting to fill that gap in service and entertainment, while also creating a more level playing field for the up and coming. Service Industry entrepreneurs are quickly becoming inventive with everything from their food truck trailer parks in suburban areas with room for outdoor entertaining and dining, along with small bars that can make better use of outdoor capacity by joining in with these other fringe groups of food and beverage start-ups. There is so much more land and the rent is so much cheaper in the suburbs that it has become more attractive for entertainment-based businesses. The idea that prime location means being conveniently located in the middle of an urban population is quickly changing and that is making the suburbs ripe with opportunity. Areas surrounding urban cities are quickly becoming the go-to for the next trendy new restaurant. Most bars that open in the suburbs serve food, as well as liquor and it is no longer the proverbial bar food. You can eat a very nice dinner, watch a band play, and dance the night away without fighting the crowds because the business owners do not require large crowds to make the rent every month. Suddenly, Gen X and Y’ers can finally have their cake and eat it too, while watching live entertainment, in their backyard, ready to be back home in 5 minutes because their babysitter called to tell them that young Eddie Vedder Smithson and his little brother Kurt just set fire to the curtains in the playroom.