Contesting the city nightlife

Should the city night be party friendly, urbanite friendly, or both? An investigation of how the lives of urbanites are impacted by the recent expansion of the inner-city nightlife scene; a development fueled by the liberalization licensing polices allowing more venues to operate and to stay open till 5 am in the morning.


The aim of this project is to explore what the extension of the nightlife scene means for a city’s development and its inhabitants. Insights from the project will provide knowledge about how best to construct licensing policies that can both facilitate an attractive and profitable nightlife scene as well as enable a comfortable living environment.


Since the 1970s, western cities have experienced a massive growth in the alcohol-based party- and nightlife economy. Consequently, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, thousands of young Danes today head for inner-city cafés, bars, and nightclubs in pursuit of intoxicated fun with friends. This development has been enabled by liberal alcohol policies, allowing both an increase in number of venues and, more of these to stay open till 5 am. The transformation of the inner-city night into a party zone has however, given rise to a series of new issues. For instance, in Denmark, the youth-based nightlife economy has often expanded in areas that are densely populated. Subsequently, while some – often young people – are drinking and partying loudly, others, such as adults, families with young children, elderly, and people who have to get up to work the next day are trying to get a good night’s sleep. Against this background, Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research has initiated a research project that explores how the expanding nightlife scene poses challenges to urban livability, using Copenhagen as a case.

The study

We investigate how different residents and urbanite groups in Copenhagen experience and attempt to influence the city’s nightlife. Furthermore, we map out central developments and controversies related to alcohol licensing policies in Copenhagen. We are going to interview:

  • Approx. 20 urbanites living in the Copenhagen city center – about their experiences with the development of the city nightlife Approx.
  • 20 venue owners, politicians and representatives from the license agency.

In addition, we will review:

  • the media debate about nightlife
  • the development of the license policy litigations concerning licenses
  • [civil] rights related to nightlife

The project runs from autumn of 2018 to spring 2021.


Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research, Aarhus University.