UPDATE: Ottawa is ahead of the game when it comes to nightlife, new commissioner says

Mathieu Grondin, Ottawa nightlife commissioner. Photo provided by the City of Ottawa.
Mathieu Grondin, Ottawa nightlife commissioner. Photo provided by the City of Ottawa.

Ottawa is now leading the charge on nightlife development in Canada, according to the city’s new nightlife commissioner Mathieu Grondin.

The city announced Grondin’s appointment to the role in a press conference at Mayor Mark Sutcliffe’s office on Tuesday morning. Grondin, who is originally from Montreal, started in the position on Monday. 

“I am excited and humbled to stand up for you as our first-ever nightlife commissioner,” said Grondin. “I am encouraged by the high level of interest and I’m looking forward to establishing relationships with the industry partners and stakeholders across the city in the coming weeks. I’m also excited to begin leveraging otherwise incredible nightlife assets, venues, businesses big and small, and vibrant neighbourhoods and main streets to advance nightlife priorities.”

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Grondin is no stranger to nightlife policy and governance. 

In Montreal, he was the founder and director general of MTL 24/24, a non-profit organization that has advocated for improved nightlife in Montreal since 2017.

In 2020, MTL 24/24 established a night council. Grondin led the publication of two significant studies that informed the ongoing development of the city’s nightlife policy. In 2021, Grondin launched MTL au Sommet de la nuit, a global forum dedicated to nighttime governance. Between 2021 and 2023, the annual event attracted more than 600 people, including speakers from more than 30 cities worldwide. 

However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the organization. 

In January, the City of Montreal declined to renew MTL 24/24’s funding for the year, leading to the layoffs of three full-time employees and the cancellation of the Montreal Night Summit 2024, which was scheduled for May. 

But in response to a question from OBJ, Grondin said he doesn’t believe Ottawa will have the same issues. 

“You’ve already learned a lot of lessons and I think you avoided a lot of the mistakes that were done in Montreal,” he said. “When you try to be a social organizer, to bring together people but you’re in the civic society, you’re a stakeholder. This came from the city. The call is being made by the mayor. It’s a very different environment, but I’ve been very impressed by the amount of positivity here. Everybody wants this to work.”

While his experience has been focused on Montreal, Grondin said he can bring worldwide knowledge to the capital city. 

“I’ve spent the last five years being a strategic partner in Montreal to develop the nighttime economy in Montreal,” he said. “But my expertise is going around the world. I’ve studied a lot of how nightlife management has been done overseas. This is why I’m here today, because I’ve been advocating for cities to create these positions around the world.”

Over the next several weeks, Grondin said he’ll meet with key partners and stakeholders within the community. 

He will work closely with the city’s economic development services team responsible for delivering the Nightlife Economy Action Plan, which was approved by city council in May 2023. The plan seeks to address economic opportunities and challenges to nightlife through a series of 10 recommendations and actions that support the development and delivery of nightlife infrastructure, amenities and experiences. 

Grondin will report to council by the end of 2024 and advise on the status of the plan’s  implementation and 2025 priority activities. 

“It’s important for cities to have a vibrant cultural life at night,” he said. “It’s a great way to retain the workforce and to drive commercial and cultural growth. Ottawa is a leader, is on the forefront of nightlife governance right now in Canada. My job is going to be to implement the nightlife commissioner’s office, this action plan, look at community engagement … This is unheard of right now in Canada.”

During the press conference, Sutcliffe said Ottawa is one of the first Canadian cities to establish a nightlife commission. 

“Ottawa’s economy is at a major inflection point right now. Right now, we are facing significant threats, but I believe we are also presented with some unique and exciting opportunities,” he said. “We are now part of a global movement as cities around the world recognize the importance of supporting and growing the nightlife economy. Cities with a robust nightlife economy don’t just have a better quality of life for residents, they also have a competitive advantage.”

In addition to marketing and generating hype for the city’s nightlife, Sutcliffe said Grondin will be a policy strategist at the city, as well as an advocate for businesses, playing a key role in growing the local nightlife economy. 

“He will ensure we are doing everything we can as a city to support the nightlife economy, remove barriers, stimulate growth, and much more,” said Sutcliffe.

He added that Grondin is a “very exciting candidate.”

A memo from the city said Grondin “is widely recognized as a global leader in nightlife advocacy with more than 10 years of experience focusing on issues and opportunities related to nighttime governance and the nightlife economy.”

Sutcliffe concurred. 

“He brings a wealth of experience to this role and a strategic vision that is essential for navigating the complexities of the nightlife economy,” he said. “I’m very, very happy to have him on board and to have him joining Team Ottawa. I know that all of us here today are going to support that as he works to ensure our night time economy thrives sustainably and responsibly.”

Grondin is fluently bilingual and has relocated from Montreal to the National Capital Region. 

In addition to founding MTL 24/24, Grondin also has a 20-year acting career in television, film and theatre. He worked for 15 years as a director and editor of music videos for artists including Céline Dion. 

Grondin began deejaying electronic music at 16 and performs today in his free time under the name Grondini. 

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