Today the NYC Hospitality Alliance's Andrew Rigie and Robert Bookman testified at City Hall in regards to proposed legislation to repeal the cabaret license.
Many of our members are impacted by the cabaret law, which requires restaurants, bars and clubs to meet zoning and safety requirements, and then obtain a license from the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs before permitting dancing within their establishment.
The history of the cabaret law is controversial and its enforcement has been described as racist and selective. Over the years, the courts have rightfully struck down provisions of the cabaret law as unconstitutional. Today, what we have left is a skeleton of the original and much more controversial cabaret law, which effectively, currently acts as a checklist ensuring that other zoning and public safety laws are adhered to before a business may allow patron dancing. Nonetheless, repealing the cabaret license is an important action and a symbolic step for many people.
If the cabaret license is repealed, the New York City Hospitality Alliance will urge the city to advise businesses and the public that such repeal does not mean that people are now allowed to dance in every restaurant, bar, club or venue. To allow dancing a business must still meet the proper zoning requirements, have the proper public assembly permit, have video cameras and fire safety systems. And, if they employ security guards they must meet additional standards. When they meet all of those requirements, the business will need to amend their liquor license to permit dancing in their licensed establishment.
Because of this multi-step process, we believe the soon to be established Office of Nightlife, and its advisory board, will be the appropriate body to undertake a comprehensive review of the various public safety and zoning requirements related to dancing, and devise a plan to further legalize dancing in New York City. There is a balance to be found among nightlife, dancing, safety, community interests and regulation.
During our testimony we stated for the official record that prior to today's public hearing, we expressed concern with the City Council, regarding the current language of the the proposed legislation to repeal the cabaret license. We appreciated the City Council's receptiveness and openness to amend the current language to ensure this proposal would not have the negative and unintended consequences that we explained.
We look forward to addressing this and many other issues that are vital to our city's culture and nighttime economy in a thoughtful and comprehensive way.