Task Force Taps Into Twitter to Find the Best Neighborhoods for After-Hours Entertainment

Where are all the people hanging out when the sun goes down? That's what they intend to find out.

Members of a special task force charged with figuring out which neighborhoods would best serve Boston residents and visitors by allowing later service hours at restaurants, bars, and even gyms have been scouring Twitter and using heat maps to collect data for their project.

“We have been having discussions about demands, and looking at different heat survey maps that show where people are at 2 a.m.,” said Meg Mainzer-Cohen, president and executive director of the Back Bay Association.

Mainzer-Cohen was one of 24 people hand-picked by Mayor Marty Walsh to be part of the Late-Night Task Force that was announced in March.

She said the group, which has met twice, has been relying on presentations by Harvard Kennedy School students that use social media posts like tweets to show them where the most popular spots are after-hours. Student from the Kennedy School, who have analyzed how other cities have approached expanded late night activities, surveyed young people, mapped liquor license and crime statistics, looked at where Boston’s street lights are and where young adults live to help further the conversation, according to Walsh’s office.

“Their presentations are based on where the last people entering the MBTA are during late-night service, and where people are tweeting from,” Mainzer-Cohen said. “I think it’s an interesting conversation, and there haven’t been any outcomes or decisions made yet, but I find it very interesting that we are talking about it at all.”

Mainzer-Cohen didn’t say which neighborhoods had the largest clusters of late-night revelers.

Mainzer-Cohen and the rest of the task force have been asked by Walsh to meet regularly to discuss ways the city can possibly keep restaurants, night clubs, bars, laundromat services, and entertainment venues open longer, to appease to the younger crowds of residents and workers that seem to flock to Boston.

Not long into his role as mayor, Walsh announced that he would form the special task force for this specific purpose, and not surprisingly, Walsh has followed through with his promise so far. “As I shared with the Boston Municipal Research Bureau in March, we have an opportunity here to create the kind of nightlife that visitors expect in a world-class city,” said Walsh.

Mainzer-Cohen said the first two meetings went well, and the mix of voices on the team adds a lot to the conversation at hand.  “There is some community groups, some business groups, some restaurant groups, and there’s young think-tank sorts—it’s definitely getting to the nut of the discovery points about if this is the right thing to do.”

Marvin McMoore, a student at Northeastern University, was also selected to sit on the committee. He said there has been some head butting on some topics of conversation, but for the most part the task force has agreed on ideas passed around the room at City Hall. “I don’t think there is a common agreement on everything, but we are going to see which way is the best way to take it,” he said, adding that he is representing the collective voices of the students that live all around Boston. “In my opinion, and what I’m hearing from students, is people would like to see nightlife expanded, and not just bars. I think coming off finals, we had to pull all-nighters, and we couldn’t find places to eat past 2 a.m., or we couldn’t go to the gym. So the focus should not be just bars, it should be the whole nightlife culture of going to a restaurant when we finish studying, or going to the gym, or going to a pizza shop. It’s beyond just bars.”

He said there have “definitely” been “reservations” about what this could mean for Boston if enacted. “I think we all have concerns and things we want to have addressed, so I wouldn’t say it was just a specific sector—we all have similar concerns, especially when it comes to safety,” he said. “There is a difference of opinions on the task force on a few things, and how it will roll out, especially considering if it will be city wide or just in certain spots.”

The Late-night Task Force plans to launch some type of pilot program for after hours entertainment and services sometime this summer. “Whether it’s going to be certain spot of the entire city, or where students will gravitate, we don’t know. But we want to make sure it’s done in a safe way,” said  McMoore.