Mayor’s Office Supports Repeal of “Cabaret Law” That Prohibits Public Dancing

Representatives from Mayor De Blasio’s office testified before the Committee of Consumer affairs last week in support of a bill that would allow public dancing in New York City bars.

“I want to state clearly that the administration and Mayor De Blasio strongly support repealing the cabaret law,” said Lindsay Greene, an economic advisor, testifying on behalf of the mayor’s office.

The law in question is the 1926 “Cabaret Law,” which requires a license for dancing at public venues in New York City. Of all the bars and restaurants in all of Brooklyn, only 21 hold a cabaret license.

Dancing at establishments that don’t hold a license is flouting the law, which critics say has been unevenly enforced over the years.

The new bill would modify the law to allow dancing in public spaces, while keeping language that requires security cameras and licensed, registered security workers at such venues.

Many consider the cabaret law a historically racist and homophobic tool—it has been used to deny licenses to venues like jazz clubs during the Harlem Renaissance and LGBTQ spaces in the Giuliani era.

In his opening remarks, Consumer Affairs committee chairman Rafael Espinal, Jr. called the infamous law a “historical wrong” and reiterated the need to decriminalize dancing.

So far, eight of the bill’s 18 sponsors are city council members from Brooklyn: Espinal, Reynoso, Levin, Williams, Menchaca, Treyger, Cornegy and Cumbo.

According to Let NYC Dance, only 10 more council members’ votes are needed to repeal the law. Currently, the bill is laid over in committee and not yet scheduled for a vote.

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Paul Stremple

Paul was a staff reporter at Bklyner, responsible for covering Northern and Eastern parts of Brooklyn between August 2017 and January 2019.

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