Jitterbug dancers via Wikipedia
Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed legislation that repealed the city’s 91-year-old Cabaret Law, making it legal to bust a move without getting busted in the city’s drinking and gathering establishments. Though it’s somewhat of a formality that’s arguably trivial, the law’s official demise represents an epic victory for decades of nightlife denizens. 6sqft previously reported on a petition started by the Dance Liberation Network and the NYC Artist Coalition calling for to repeal the onerous law with racist roots on the grounds that the law is out of place in a cultural Mecca like New York City.
The 1926 Cabaret Law said that an establishment had to have a city license if more than three patrons want to move their feet. According to New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, “A Cabaret License is required for any business that sells food and/or beverages to the public and allows patron dancing in a room, place, or space.”
The law was originally aimed at jazz clubs born during the Harlem Renaissance. It wasn’ t the only racist regulation of its day; a ban on saxophones and other instruments seen as “black” at unlicensed establishments went into effect, and a New York City Cabaret Card was required for performers–which led to musicians like Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Billie Holiday having their right to perform suspended. But the Cabaret License requirement is the only one left on the books. The recent petition, spearheaded by a Bushwick bar owner, was only the newest wave of protest; a group of nightlife activists founded the Dance Liberation Front in 1998 to protest the law.
The update, which comes after a public hearing on November 20th, repeals all aspects of the law except for two safety requirements for security cameras and security guards at establishments that would have previously been required to have a cabaret license. The mayor said, “It’s 2017, and this law just didn’t make sense. Nightlife is part of the New York melting pot that brings people together. We want to be a city where people can work hard, and enjoy their city’s nightlife without arcane bans on dancing.”
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