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A New York City Council member introduced a bill on Wednesday that would repeal the city’s controversial Cabaret Law. The 91-year-old ordinance, which is often referred to as the “no dancing law,” prohibits people from dancing in public venues that don’t have a license.
Under the rule, establishments that want to have dancing must apply for the permit. However, the process is said to be difficult, and only .01% of the city’s bars and restaurants have one, according to the Dance Liberation Network.
According to a 1987 article in the New York Times, the law is “largely concerned with occupancy limits, fire safety, and the moral character of cabaret owners.”
However, East New York Councilman Rafael L. Espinal, Jr., who introduced the repeal bill, argued at a hearing on Monday that the law is “historically racist.”
“Espinal said business owners have complained that the law is used as a way into their establishments to issue other violations,” according to CBS New York.
Bronx Councilman Richie Torres agreed: “We have no business criminalizing dancing, and the puritanism of the cabaret law has no place in New York City. It’s a law that’s racist in its origins.”
In March, Thump wrote an article that claims the law was intended to target black jazz establishments.
At the hearing, hundreds of supporters joined Espinal to voice their concerns. The councilman said their stories inspired him to write the bill.
Small business owner Rachel Nelson said: “The Cabaret Law is a law that is arbitrarily enforced on minority populations and small businesses in order to shut them down as a neighborhood gentrifies.”
However, supporters of the Cabaret Law say it’s an issue of public safety.
“The city will argue that the law is not currently being enforced to regulate dancing and only to ensure the safety requirements,” Councilman Espinal said. “But the stories on the ground will tell you different.”
In addition to repealing the law, Espinal has also proposed legislation to create a Nightlife Task Force and Office of Nightlife, which would be led by a “night mayor.” Its responsibilities would include regulating the nightlife industry and helping create a safer environment.
Both bills have a long way to go, though.
The next step is for the Consumer Affairs Committee to consider amendments to the proposals and vote on them. If they pass the Committee, they will be considered and voted on by the City Council. If the bills pass the Council, they will then be presented to Mayor Bill De Blasio, who will have 30 days to sign, veto, or ignore them.
If the repeal law is signed, more venues in New York City might encourage dancing. As a result, the demand for DJs in the city might increase.
Related: California Senate Approves Bill to Extend Alcohol Service to 4 a.m.