SANTA FE (KRQE) – One of New Mexico’s top tourist towns is trying to stay open later.
Kate Kennedy has seen the late night venues come and go in Santa Fe’s downtown over the years.
“There’s been a lot of businesses that open,” Kennedy said. “Most of them close in their first year.”
Now a managing partner at Skylight, a late night bar and performance venue two blocks from the Plaza, Kennedy has been pushing for the City Different to embrace its nightlife.
“It needs to be part of the lifestyle again,” Kennedy said. “As the young professionals have left or haven’t been coming home, the focus on that part of the economy has sort of dissipated.”
Census data shows the city has been aging significantly. In 2000, a little less than 25 percent of Santa Feans were 55 or older. In 2010, that number had jumped to about 34 percent.
But Kennedy says the reality of Santa Fe’s nightlife is starting to change even if the perception’s not.
“I think the perspective is there’s nothing to do in this town, that we’re a small town with nothing to offer at night,” Kennedy said. “It’s just not true.”
That change has been helped along by the creation of the Nighttime Economy Task Force by Mayor Javier Gonzales. The group, which Kennedy is co-vice chair of, has been brainstorming and pushing several ideas to boost Santa Fe’s nightlife.
“What can we have that will both be beneficial for local residents and the millennial generation we want to attract over here,” said Zackary Quintero, an economic development specialist with the city of Santa Fe.
So far, the task force has backed a new food truck ordinance that’s allowing mobile vendors to sell near the Plaza. It’s also gotten city tourism to add a nightlife section to its website promoting the city. Last year, Night Wave Santa Fe launched a three-night weekend event boasting music, late night food offerings and more.
It’s working with the city’s parking staff to allow people to leave their cars parked outside some venues overnight and is trying to set up a New Year’s Eve event on the Plaza.
“I think it’s going to take us a good year or so to really see the impact of what the task force is trying to do,” Kennedy said.
“We need to send a clear message to millenials that this is gonna be a place for them,” Quintero said. “Not just as a destination to just stop by or just come to for one to two days.”
The task force is set to present its full recommendations to Santa Fe City Council in the fall.