As expected, on Monday evening, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation into law that will repeal the 91-year-old “cabaret law” that has long bedeviled nightclub owners. The law prohibited dancing in bars and restaurants that did not possess a cabaret license.
Int. 1652-A, which passed the full council at the end of October, repeals all aspects of this law except for two safety requirements. Establishments previously required to obtain a cabaret license must continue to abide by these requirements. Also, establishments must install and maintain security cameras; and if they employ security guards, the law ensures such security guards are licensed pursuant to state law and to maintain a roster of such security guards.
The law was created during the Prohibition era to curb speakeasies and, many contend, to repress Harlem’s booming jazz clubs of the era. While enforced inconsistently in recent years, the law was used frequently by the Rudolph Giuliani administration to crack down on city nightclubs during the 1990s in an effort to curb drug use. It was at times used as a reason to shut down establishments for quality-of-life reasons or that law-enforcement officials suspected of other offenses.
“It’s 2017, and this law just didn’t make sense. Nightlife is part of the New York melting pot that brings people together,” said de Blasio. “We want to be a city where people can work hard, and enjoy their city’s nightlife without arcane bans on dancing. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Member Rafael Espinal, and everyone who helped repeal this law, support businesses and keep our nightlife safe.”
“Today New York City makes history as we repeal the antiquated Cabaret Law. Since its inception, this law has been highly problematic, facing numerous legal challenges and complaints about its uneven and discriminatory enforcement,” said Mark-Viverito. “While the repeal preserves important safety measures, it removes several redundant bureaucratic barriers, so that New Yorkers may dance freely and safely. I thank Council Member Espinal for championing the end of the Cabaret Law and Mayor de Blasio for his support and signing this repeal into law.”
“Artist, musicians, businesses owners, workers, and everyday New Yorkers looking to let loose will no longer have to fear the dance police will shut down their favorite venues,” said Espinal. “We are doubling down on our commitment to keep New York as a true sanctuary city and we will not allow a law that has historically been used to suppress and oppress various groups, continue to stay in our books. I am proud to champion this historic repeal, which will support our nightlife businesses and community, while maintaining the much-needed safety measures we already have in place.”
“We look forward to supporting New York’s storied nightlife, to harnessing the creative entrepreneurial spirit that defines our city, and ensuring that establishments can operate in a way that keeps all New Yorkers safe and communities healthy,” said Julie Menin, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.
“Social dancing is a huge part of life for so many of my constituents, and it’s a pastime that across class, ethnic, and cultural lines. I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for his support and my Bushwick neighbor Council Member Espinal for his leadership on this issue. Repealing this discriminatory law was long overdue. It’s time to let NYC dance!” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.