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Christian Eede
12 June 2024, 12:48

Belfast appoints first-ever night czar, Michael Stewart

Stewart has been involved in the city's hospitality industry for a number of years, and owns a local business

Belfast appoints first-ever night czar, Michael Stewart

Belfast has appointed its first-ever night czar, Michael Stewart.

The appointment was announced this week, with Stewart saying he aims to address areas such as transport and safety in his new role. It's not being funded by the national or local government, however, but rather by three organisations that have been set up to help develop the central city's economy: Belfast One, Linen Quarter BID and Destination CQ.

Stewart has been involved in the hospitality industry for more than three decades, and owns local street food location Common Market, as well as a training firm called Bar Czar Limited.

"This role provides a unique platform working with key partners to address critical issues impacting our city centre," Stewart said. "And ensuring it remains a vibrant and dynamic destination after hours."

He has conceded, however, that he will have "no powers" when it comes to forcing through changes, and will be limited to advocating and lobbying for change.

"This is a part, part, part-time role, but I will give it a lot of time and effort," he told the BBC. "It's an advocacy role; the three key words are communicate, advocate and network."

Stewart's appointment comes just a few months after Dublin announced its first night czar, Ray O'Donoghue. There are further plans to hire night-time economy advisers in a number of other Irish cities, such as Cork, Limerick and Galway. Expectations are that those roles will be backed by government funding.

News that Belfast was for looking for its first night czar was first revealed last month. Free The Night, an initiative launched by DJ Holly Lester and Boyd Sleator to support Northern Ireland's night-time economy and challenge the restrictive elements of the country's Licensing and Registration of Clubs Bill, responded to the announcement at the time: “Whilst Free The Night welcomes this news and is encouraged by conversations with the Purple Flag Steering Group and the BIDs, this does not absolve the need for the government to take full responsibility for the night time economy.

"We will continue to advocate for long term night time governance between the departments and city councils and for now, will continue to engage with and support the BIDs throughout this process. We wish to encourage individuals with a focus on culture and creativity after dark to apply for the role, and similarly offer our support and guidance to the successful applicant.”