The racist and archaic cabaret law passed 91 years ago in New York City is set to be repealed by the New York City council tomorrow, October 31st. A bill introduced by councilman Rafael Espinal comes before the council tomorrow for a vote and it is expected to pass. He says according to the New York Times, that he has the 26 votes needed to pass the law.
The prohibition-era law puts a ban on social dancing in just about every bar and club in New York City that hasn’t obtained a Cabaret license. It seems odd that a city like New York with a vibrant nightlife would have such a restrictive law on the books. The law is enforced rarely and hasn’t been used much since the Giuliani administration, but it is something that keeps bar and club owners scared and forces many spaces into potentially hazardous underground zones. There are only 97 out of approximately 25,000 eating and drinking establishments in New York City with a cabaret license to put things into perspective.
There has been a big push in the past few years to get the law repealed with organizations formed to get the law reviewed and repealed. An increased awareness among those in the arts community and the general public has helped show the racist roots of the law that date to the 20s when the government didn’t like racially mixed jazz clubs operating in Harlem.
If passed tomorrow as the repeal is likely to, the mayor is behind it as well, so this would get the Cabaret Law off the books. Speaking to the Times, a spokesman for the mayor insisted that some security measures placed in the law in the past 15 years such as security guards and security cameras be maintained.
With a nightlife mayor office being created and the cabaret law coming off the books, 2018 could be a new dawn for nightlife in New York City.