NYC Lawmakers… Emulate This!

By Robert Bookman, Pesetsky & Bookman

March 25, 2016

Don’t you just hate it when elected officials and government agencies want to adopt a new anti-business initiative or program that will cost small business owners more money?

And they argue “Well, they are doing it in (insert west coast city of your choice- San Francisco, LA, or Seattle) and it is working out just fine there.”

“It seems NYC lawmakers just love to emulate California.”

I remember this line of argument in many battles over the years – paid sick leave, higher minimum wage, letter grades and elimination of the tip credit. And I am sure this is not an exhaustive list. Consistently, every argument the business community makes in attempt to distinguish NYC from these other fine towns is dismissed. It seems NYC lawmakers just love to emulate California.

Well, as they say, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

The San Francisco Planning Commission just unanimously recommended new noise regulations near what they call “Places of Entertainment” (what we call nightclubs) that are actually good for the industry and  for artists..

As was reported by the California Music and Culture Association, “Today was a great experience.  Over 35 pro-nightlife folks and 20+ articulate speakers addressed the Planning Commissioners.  We heard support from neighbors and venue owners, from fans and artists along with city officials, all saying this legislation is overdue and they support its passage.”

The legislation will address a number of concerns from the nightlife industry that are just as relevant here in NYC, as they seem to be in San Fran.  Apparently… and I know this is hard to believe… there is residential gentrification and development in previously commercial areas. When these new residents arrive, they are “shocked” to learn that their nightlife venue neighbors actually have people coming and going late at night!  They then complain and try to get the establishments’ liquor license revoked and make it harder for other places to open.

So San Fran has concluded that this is not fair to nightlife; nor is this the way to preserve entertainment and nightlife in the city. If passed, the San Fran Entertainment Commission (yes, they along with Seattle actually have a City Agency devoted to preserving nightlife and working with all stakeholders) will have the power to:

1)  Protect a Place of Entertainment (POE) so that it shall not be deemed a nuisance just because of new development;

2)  Give the Entertainment Commission authority to hold a hearing on a proposed residential use near a POE and require the sponsor’s participation in the hearing;

3)  Authorize the Entertainment Commission to measure noise at the site and make recommendations regarding noise mitigation;

4)  Require residential property owners to disclose to buyers and tenants potential noise and other inconveniences associated with nearby POEs.

In other words, a new developer has to deal with the existing nightlife establishments on a fair playing field.

There must be action before the “City that never sleeps” becomes known as the “City that goes to bed right after dinner”.

New York City taking steps to preserve nightlife is long overdue. There must be action before the “City that never sleeps” becomes known as the “City that goes to bed right after dinner”.  As for these pro-business progressive initiatives in San Fran and Seattle, I say to our lawmakers here in NYC…EMULATE THIS!

 Robert Bookman Esq. | General & Legislative Counsel Robert S. Bookman is the General & Legislative Counsel of the New York City Hospitality Alliance and senior partner in the law firm Pesetsky and Bookman. Formerly with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, (1981 – 1986) he has since specialized in representing small businesses before numerous city agencies, the City Council and the courts.



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