For decades, Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been one of the biggest annual celebrations conducted in the city. Hundreds of thousands of people pour in to eat, drink and be merry in the streets of a city with an undeniably rich history of Irish heritage.
This weekend puts the spotlight on pubs and bars — establishments that are almost synonymous with Boston’s nightlife. But one woman is working to revitalize this image by introducing new opportunities for all types of Bostonians to get outside and enjoy the city. Her name is Corean Reynolds, and she’s Boston’s new director of nightlife economy — or, as she’s been dubbed by the media, “the night czar."
Reynolds was recently appointed by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu to lead a team focused on making Boston’s nightlife more vibrant and inclusive. In one of her first interviews in office, we spoke with Reynolds to hear more about her aspirations and intentions for the city of Boston as she kicks off her first week of work:
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Hanna Ali: What does inclusivity look like to you when we're talking about a nighttime social event? Are we prioritizing diversity of background, age, lifestyle, perhaps all three?
Corean Reynolds: "All three, why not! 'Cause they all make up this great city, right? We can't make everything for everyone, but we want people to find themselves outside. We want to find them in the events, in the cultural experiences, in the music and the gatherings that we have here in the city and at its venues. That's super important to us. I'm excited to work with the community and stakeholders to see what that may look like in the future."
HA: You've mentioned you're currently prioritizing safety and transportation to help those on a night out return home safely. At a glance, what do you think that might look like for the MBTA, what might it look like for just transportation in general, and maybe even for policing?
CR: "MBTA is a regional transportation system, and Boston is — while it's one of the largest areas that they serve, it's not the only one. We have some stuff that precedes me, like the slowdowns and some of the track issues that will have to be addressed before we can go in and try to extend service. So keeping those topics in mind, understanding what the problems are… and thinking through new creative ways to alleviate some of those."
"Right now, what I'm trying to do is really review what we've done in the past to address safety. Working with my colleagues who have already started the work on addressing some of the drugging that's been happening in some of our venues, working with them to think through new, innovative solutions to eradicate some of that — or hopefully all of it."
HA: If you could make it happen with the snap of your fingers, what sort of specific events and opportunities would you like to include in Boston's nightlife?
CR: "Well, if I could snap my fingers, I would make downtown Boston more reflective of the 23 neighborhoods that we have here in the city. Right now, it does feel like we've lost a little bit of that special spark, but it hasn't left. We just have to reignite it. Using the downtown area with all of the culture that the City of Boston has to offer, all of the people and identities that Boston has to offer, I think could reignite that spark and not only get folks who visit here wanting to visit here even more, but get the folks who live here to get out and enjoy the space as well."
HA: So, Boston’s lack of late-night eats is often knocked as one of the more unfortunate...
CR: "Struggles." [Laughs]
HA: [Laughs] ...situations in the city. What do you feel like are some challenges that come with extending businesses’ hours for late-night diners? And, could you name any businesses that have been crushing it lately with the late-night crowd?
CR: "So here’s the thing: If people aren’t outside, then why? Why would businesses stay open later? They’re serving the crowd that is showing up. [If] we can create more exciting opportunities to see plays, world class comedy acts, and all that — if we have a diversity of offerings — then people will want to go out after and have a drink, right?
I think the Theater District, the Chinatown area, is a good example of what a bustling, diverse nightlife economy could look like. When I'm down in the Theater District, my late night spot is the Dumpling Cafe. I know that they'll be open at 1 o'clock when I need some fried rice and a good meal after a good night of being out on the town."
HA: What do you feel like late-night dining might look like a year from now?
CR: "Well, I want it to just be more robust. I'm hoping that there aren't just one or two places we can go, but there's five or six or 10 places we can go in any given neighborhood, not just in the downtown area. When you go to Hyde Park and see a show or when you go to Allston-Brighton and you're out and about and having a few drinks, you're like, 'Hey, I could really use a good meal,' there's multiple options, not just that one go-to."
HA: Say you've got a free Saturday night in the city. What are you doing, where are you headed? And let's say the weather's warm and it's not raining. Every time I think about this question, I'm like, "Well, if it's raining or snowing, I'm inside."
CR: "We're going to be a cold city during a few months. So, we have to kind of embrace that! Thinking of ways that we can get people outside and just embracing that weather would be an awesome thing to focus on — I'll put that on my list."
"Going to the Boch Center and seeing a comedian or, you know, Todrick Hall has performed there before... going to see a show there. One of my favorite places right now, it's brand spanking new, is Hue. It's over in the Copley area. So, you know, I'll hop on the Orange Line, get off at Back Bay, and then go over to Hue for a nightcap. That, to me, sounds like the perfect Saturday evening."
HA: How can residents submit ideas, thoughts, etc., on city nightlife to you?
CR: "Hopefully in the next few months there will be a centralized location on our website for you to, you know, give me what you want. You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I've gotten a lot of inquiries and feedback on Instagram, which is probably not the best way to contact me, but you can always email me."
"I also want to think through — and I'm going to talk generally — but just think through different ways to get people to gather and listen to what they say they're looking for in a bustling nightlife economy... to inspire us to think through what the city could be."