91 years later, New York City dance floors have been liberated.
November 27, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will sign the bill that will repeal the city’s Cabaret Law, instituted in 1926.
An archaic remnant of a previous, more restrictive era, the Cabaret Law made it illegal for New York City public spaces to host “musical entertainment, singing, dancing or other forms of amusement” without a cabaret license. Performers and employees of cabarets alike were fingerprinted and forced to carry “cabaret cards” as proof of their licensure under the law from 1940 to 1967. The city reserved the ability to refuse the grant of such a license to applicants with police records, creating limitations for performers like Billie Holiday and Ray Charles. Holiday and Charles were both unable to book a club date for several years due to their respective narcotics records. Frank Sinatra notably avoided the New York City performance platform for several years, refusing to complete the fingerprinting that would serve as the prerequisite for the cabaret license.
The Cabaret Law has long fettered New York City’s nightlife arenas, despite the city’s claim to be a “nightlife capital.” Only 97 out of approximately 25,000 eating and drinking establishments currently hold a cabaret license, the sparseness of the licenses duly the product of the license’s expense, and venues’ limited eligibility. Only those businesses placed in areas zoned for commercial manufacturing are able to obtain a license. Yet even if a business is able to apply for a license based on its geographical position, acquiring the license can be a time consuming venture, as approval of the license for the given establishment must be submitted by numerous agencies.
While many public and political figures have campaigned to repeal the Cabaret Law, it is Rafael Espinal’s bill that de Blasio will sign into effect today. A Brooklyn councilman and advocate for New York City nightlife, Espinal has also passed a bill to create a New York based nightlife office that will serve as a point of contact for the city’s government and owners of nightlife establishments.
“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,” Espinal says of the groundbreaking stride towards a freer New York City nightlife network. New Yorkers can accordingly be expected to get ‘footloose’ this weekend in celebration of the momentous victory for the metropolitan nightlife scene.
H/T: Resident Advisor