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De Blasio Will Repeal NYC Cabaret Law if NYPD Oversees Nightclub Surveillance Provision

After avoiding giving a direct statement regarding what many consider an antiquated, racist, and homophobic Cabaret Law, the office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio officially stated its support for repealing the anti-dancing legislation last week.

The Prohibition-era law requires a Cabaret License “for any business that sells food and/or beverages to the public and allows patron dancing in a room, place, or space.” Historically, the law has been enforced to shut down spaces for marginalized groups, such as Harlem jazz clubs, Latin dance clubs, and DIY venues. Although the mayor’s office claims enforcement of the law has been rare under de Blasio, arbitrary enforcement can lead to fines, loss of liquor license, and potentially closure for the thousands of venues without cabaret licenses in New York. In an effort to ameliorate relations between NYC nightlife venues and city government, City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr. proposed a bill to repeal the outdated cabaret law. Last month, the city passed legislation proposed by Councilman Espinal to create an Office of Nightlife to oversee relations between independent venues and City Hall.

At a City Hall Consumer Affairs meeting held on Thursday, senior mayoral advisor Lindsay Greene expressed measured support for the repeal bill: “We feel there are better ways than the current cabaret law to create a strong and healthy nightlife economy while also ensuring the safety and security of everyone participating in that economy. Repealing the cabaret law while maintaining important safety provisions will go a long way to ensuring New Yorkers can fully enjoy the city’s vast array of nightlife venues.”

She went on to add, however, that the Mayor would only sign the repeal legislation if the NYPD oversees a provision requiring certain nightclubs to have security cameras. Currently, only dance halls are required to have security cameras installed. The new law would require security cameras in larger venues that have liquor licenses, stay open past midnight, and charge a cover.