Councilman Rafael Espinal, who's led the charge against the 1926 law, wrote the bill that passed today.
The council voted today in favor of a bill that ended the "no-dancing" law, which was first enacted in 1926. The bill was written by Brooklyn councilman Rafael Espinal, who's become an important advocate for nightlife and independent culture in the past year. This means that businesses will no longer require a specific license to allow dancing, nor will they face the fines associated with those infractions.
"Today NYC will right a historical wrong," says Espinal. "It's over for the Cabaret Law. For almost a century, the Cabaret Law has targeted specific groups, kept businesses and performers in fear and stifled the expression of NYC's vital culture. I am proud to champion this historic repeal, which will support our nightlife businesses while maintaining the much-needed safety measures we already have in place."
It's the culmination of an almost year-long campaign to bring down the legislation, led by a coalition of groups like the NYC Artist Coalition, Dance Liberation Network, Legalize Dance NYC and the founder of the annual Dance Parade. The law's been challenged a few times since the '90s, both on the grounds of its free speech implications, and for its racist origins as a way of targeting mixed jazz clubs in Harlem, though never successfully until now. Only about 100 of the city's roughly 25,000 bars, clubs and cafes have the license they need to legally host dancing, according to the terms of the Cabaret Law.
Espinal also successfully passed a bill to create an office of nightlife in New York City, a position that will bring together artists, nightlife professionals and the city government.
We discussed the Cabaret Law and other licensing issues in last year's feature about nightlife, real estate and gentrification in New York. Read that here.