The MARCH program is a troubling vestige left over from a prior era. It began after the Happy Land fire in 1990 (87 people died) in an illegal and unsafe club. That tragedy resulted in the Social Club Task Force, which sent police officers, firefighters and inspectors from multiple City agencies to close down unlicensed establishments. But after completing its work, rather than disband the Task Force, Mayor Giuliani morphed it into MARCH, which now, was tasked with going after licensed establishments too.
Due to the NYC Hospitality Alliance’s (and before that the Nightlife Association’s) ongoing work with the NYPD, the relationship with the police and nightlife is vastly better. The number of MARCH operations is down from around 700 in 2002 to around 300 in 2018. Certain crimes that are not the fault of the operator like cell phone thefts are no longer used as a basis for a MARCH, and approval for an operation must come from above the precinct level. These changes, along with others have resulted in a more than 80% reduction in the number of summonses being issued to nightlife establishments today, compared to before our regular meetings with the NYPD.
However, the MARCH program still poses concern and this proposed legislation provides needed data and transparency to a process that remains controversial after all these years. We are very pleased that the NYPD also supports this legislation. It’s our hope that with this legislation, all parties can look at the data and determine that MARCH is old fashioned and is not the most effective way of government getting the attention of nightlife establishments.