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Proposed Zoning Change to Legalize Dancing Across NYC

August 26, 2021

Today, the NYC Hospitality Alliance thanks Council Member Keith Powers, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Council Member Mark Levine for proposing a zoning change to legalize dancing across New York City.  The Resolution seeks to end historically discriminatory regulations while providing relief to struggling hospitality and entertainment workers.

This is an issue our organization has been working on for many years, and while we commended the City for repealing the Cabaret Law a couple of years ago, we knew the only way to truly expand where people can dance in commercial establishments was to then amend the underlying zoning resolution which severely restricts where dancing may occur at restaurants, bars and clubs.

Changing the zoning resolution to allow dancing was also a recommendation that was included in the city’s Nightlife Advisory Board Report, of which we are members. Click here to read today’s press release about this proposal from Council Member Powers which our executive director Andrew Rigie, counsel Rob Bookman, and several members are quoted in. We will continue our advocacy to make this proposal a reality. It is past time to rid NYC of these Footloose laws!

Here’s a snippet from the press release about the history of this issue:

In 2017, the Council passed historic legislation that repealed the Cabaret Law and established the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife. Despite this important step, many restaurants and bars are still not permitted to have dancing or entertainment under current zoning regulations. The proposed resolution calls to end the city’s zoning laws over dancing and entertainment, so establishments would be regulated based on capacity of venue, rather than zoning. 

Dancing restrictions like the Cabaret Law have historically had a disproportionate impact on Black, Latino, and LGBT communities. For decades, enforcement subjected Black jazz venues, gay bars, and other establishments to police raids, heightened surveillance, and flagrant discrimination. Legalizing dancing and entertainment across the city would allow New Yorkers to finally express themselves without fear of punishment or policing.