Should Europe legislate its nightlife?

Europe's nightlife is a source of tourism and cultural standing for cities. [Shutterstock]

Health and safety rules, hygiene regulations, noise limitation: nightlife in Europe is highly controlled, whereas it should be prized and valued. EURACTIV France reports.

Public policies should understand the characteristics of night, rather than destroy its peculiarity.

During a national conference on nightlife that took place in Paris on 14-15 September, Michel Foessel, philosopher and author of “The night: living unwitnessed” warned against the “colonisation of the night by the day.”

“We are part of the Western society of hygiene, security, predictability. But applying daylight, productive dynamics to the night, by definition unproductive, is what’s killing it”, warned the philosopher.

Free space

The night is lived, by the philosopher as by the nightlife professionals attending the conference, as a window of freedom and creativity. An idea shared by Ariel Wizman, journalist and DJ, who closed the conference by saying: “the night can’t be separated from risk-taking. At night, everything happens by accident.”

Looking to regulate nightlife, to make it healthier and safer, the regulations, all of it suffocates nightlife.

Adopted last August in France, the decree on the “risk prevention from the noise and amplified sounds” seeks to lower the number of decibels at night: from 105 dB over 15 minutes to 102.

“Resting areas”

The decree also seeks to introduce resting areas in nightclubs, where the decibels will be kept under 80. The law, incorporating recommendations by the French public health council, follows the input given by the 2002 European directive on noise pollution. A subject the Commission first approached in 1996, when it published a book on environmental politics.

According to Angélique Duchemin, spokesperson for Agi-son, an association protecting creativity from high-volume music, said: “These new measures will inflate costs for the night economy. Clubs will have to invest €10,000, which is a huge sum for small ones.”

“These rules come from politicians who know nothing about our issues and who don’t want to know anything. This proposal of “resting areas” is impossible to implement,” explained Christophe, a nightclub patron in Paris.

The association Agi-Son has also given the voice to a number of artists who find this regulation noxious for their freedom of expression: “electronic music, rap, all these musical styles are meant to be listened to at high volume. They exploit low frequencies, and lowering the volume limits the artistic expression.” Risk-taking and creativity are impacted by an ill-conceived legislation that will enter into force in October 2018.

Risk-taking and creativity are impacted by an ill-conceived legislation that will enter into force in October 2018, they say.


Instead of legislating and seeking to transform night into day, the European Union could recognise the huge benefit represented by nigh scenes for tourism and cultural standing in Europe.

Thierry Charlois, a master of nightlife in Paris, recalls the example of Ibiza – a global capital for electronic music: “During the 1980s, the island counted one tourist per inhabitant. With the boom in nightlife, the island now counts 30 tourists per inhabitant.”

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The magazine Le Parisien has called for a European action plan to coordinate the different actions cities put in place for regulating nightlife.

“We need to share the best practices, to see how European cities are safeguarding and conciliating the nightlife. We need to create links amongst us and open a dialogue with the policymakers.”

For now, this network is the European Forum for Urban Security (EFUS), financed by municipalities and uniting 250 cities across Europe, but independent of the EU.

Elizabeth Johnston, an EFUS representative, explained the benefits of such a network: “We do workshops and conferences. The representatives can compare their mediation techniques. Our role is to pinpoint and select best practices. It is often the case that cities ignore their own practices.”

Following these encounters, the forum publishes recommendations for professionals and the wider public. On Nightlife, EFUS published a leaflet titled “Alcohol, city and nightlife”, available online.

Lilian Babe, head of the addiction prevention centre CSAPA, works at night, with the support of Besançon municipality (eastern France). Safety agents have been trained to mediate rather than suppress risky behaviours related to alcohol and drugs.

But this practice-sharing network has its limits, as noted by Babe: “Copy-pasting foreign practices doesn’t work. Nightlife parameters are local.”

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