Downtown Cape Town's night-time economy bounces back

by CCID 27 Jul 2022
Burger & Lobster

As the night-time economy of the vibrant Cape Town CBD recovers following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, we look at its potential to support urban renewal, job creation and economic growth.

The night-time economy (NTE) is an integral part of modern life. What used to be considered “after-hours” is now becoming regular hours for more businesses, with many global cities actively working to grow and manage their evening economies.

Cape Town and its buzzing city centre is no different, and the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) continues to play a pivotal role in the resurgence of the downtown night-time economy, especially after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

Sandra Gordon, CCID research economist who is working on an NTE impact study in collaboration with the University of Cape Town and the Urban Real Estate Research Unit, says a city’s NTE goes well beyond a bustling collection of trendy coffee shops, restaurants, pubs and clubs.

“There is growing recognition in several prominent global cities that the NTE is a source of economic activity, employment and urban renewal. It does need to be carefully managed, however, as it can also generate inner-city challenges, especially for residents.”

Right now, the CBD’s post-pandemic NTE has the potential to give the CBD's economy a lucrative boost. Gordon continues: “Currently the facilities, infrastructure and networks of the CBD are only fully utilised on weekdays between 06h00 and 18h00. By supporting and growing the NTE, the intention is to use them for an extended period. We need to include activity after 18h00 as being an extension of the formal economy, rather than just ‘after-hours’”.

Jerry's Burger Bar barmen

The Central City has a thriving night-time economy. Here, barmen do their thing at Jerry's Burger Bar at Heritage Square.


Traditional NTE sectors such as clubs, bars and restaurants are back with a bang, especially in Bree and Long streets, having survived the worst of the pandemic. According to the CCID’s economic publication State of Cape Town Central City Report 2021 – A year in review (SCCR), there were 2 981 businesses operating in the Cape Town CBD in 2021, of which 1 163 were retail and entertainment entities.

One of the newer establishments is the Blue Room, a jazz music addition to well-known restaurateur Matt Manning’s 103 Bree Street offering, which includes fine-dining restaurant Grub & Vine, and upmarket wine bar, Culture Club.

Says Manning, “We opened this intimate music venue in November last year as we believed we were heading for a busy December. Obviously the ‘travel ban gate’ as I call the Omicron variant and resultant restrictions hampered our initial growth slightly, but we are well on our way to a post-pandemic world with patrons eager to visit and enjoy what we can offer.”

Having worked in global cities for a large chunk of his career, Manning is full of praise for the work of both the City of Cape Town and the CCID in promoting the NTE post-Covid. “Cape Town offers something unique and different to other SA cities – the CBD is a true metropolitan area, reminiscent of some of the most popular global tourist hotspots. It’s 15 minutes’ away from major tourist locations such as Clifton, Camps Bay, Table Mountain and the V&A Waterfront. It is a brilliant spot, growing from very limited offerings a few years ago to a vibrant economy exploding with gastronomic offerings. I am proud to be a part of it.

“Part of the reason why the CBD and Bree Street are attractive can be attributed to the incredible work the CCID does. The presence of the CCID Safety & Security patrols enables people to feel safe and comfortable to walk the full length of the street. This brings peace of mind for business owners and patrons alike as it allows us to run top-class establishments for a discerning audience, on par with other world cities,” Manning concludes.

CBD at night


CCID Safety & Security manager Muneeb Hendricks says moves to rejuvenate Long Street by the Long Street Association will go far in boosting the NTE. “Reclaiming this famed street for pedestrian traffic is at the core of the Upper Long Inner City Rejuvenation Project, which has seen the creation of dedicated spaces for pop-ups, beautifying efforts and, of course, urban improvements to attract visitors and residents alike. This all contributes to a healthier nightlife and resultant economy.”

Hopefully, more projects like this will roll out soon. Efforts like Open Streets and First Thursdays also play a pivotal role in bringing pedestrians back after hours.

Globally, a night-time economy seems to work best in high-density areas. Developers and landlords are starting to jump on the opportunity the NTE presents, with enticing offerings to attract evening footfall.

StayEasy - SunSquare

There are a myriad of hotels in the CBD, including StayEasy and SunSquare, that contribute to the CBD's NTE.


It's not just the restaurants, markets and entertainment offerings that stimulate the NTE. The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector is a major contributor, even during the height of Covid restrictions. Says Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Growth, Alderman James Vos, “The business process outsourcing sector has created over 35 000 jobs servicing the international community over the past 10 years and was one of the few sectors that continued to remain economically viable during the pandemic.”

In total, more than 69 000 people now work in the BPO sector in Cape Town. According to the SCCR, there are 25 call centres in the city centre employing nearly 19 000 people. At least 12 of these centres work after 18h00, employing about 15 000 people. With international clients continuously showing interest in South Africa’s BPO sector, it has been tipped as one of the green shoots that will steer the country’s economic recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Concludes Rob Kane, CEO of Boxwood Property Fund and CCID chairperson, “The NTE comprises much more than just clubs and restaurants – the increasing number of residential developments and the influx of students and BPO professionals add tremendous value to our city centre economy.

“The impact of Covid-19 was severe, no doubt. However, we are seeing traffic increasing on a weekly basis. Businesses are bringing people back to the office, which is good for both the day and night-time economy. We are certainly well on our way to being back to 'normal' and we will get there – I believe sooner than people think.”

IMAGES: CCID, Carmen Lorraine