NYC Artist Coalition: Repeal the Cabaret Law Bill #1652 Testimony

Testimony on: (Int. No. 1652-2017) Repealing the Cabaret Law
The New York City Council Committee on Consumer Affairs
by New York City Artist Coalition
Thursday September 14th, 2017

My Name is Olympia Kazi and I’ll read the NYC Artist Coalition testimony. It is an honor and a privilege to be back in these chambers in front of this very committee, only three months after we delivered testimony on Cabaret Law Oversight, to discuss a repeal of this law that so unfairly has been criminalizing social dancing a fundamental cultural expression. (I am attaching our previous testimony for the record.)

The reasons for repeal are many:
- With about a hundred active cabaret licenses and over 25,000 venues where New Yorkers may dance, we are experiencing a de facto ban on social dancing in NYC. - A prohibition era law with a racist and homophobic legacy has no place in a contemporary society. - Today the Cabaret Law is not enforced across the board, but arbitrarily, thus it allows for discriminatory practices by law enforcement agencies. A law that is not supposed to be enforced should not be on the books. - This law, with its out-of-scale permitting requirements and zoning restrictions, is a great burden on small businesses and grassroots cultural spaces. It also affects the livelihood of many when it becomes the means for closing a venue. - Last but not least, this law makes all New Yorkers unsafe. By forcing us to dance in unlicensed spaces that for obvious reasons avoid City safety and security controls and assistance.

The NYC Artist Coalition advocates for the safety and preservation of informal cultural spaces. In the past few months we’ve worked with the Dance Liberation Network, Dance Parade and many other organizations in a relentless campaign to legalize social dancing and to ensure cultural vibrancy and safety for all New Yorkers.

Our campaign has encountered very positive media response with major outlets dedicating articles, essays and broadcasts. The de Blasio administration, through the work of the progressive team leading the Department of Cultural Affairs, has included the Cabaret Law issue in the newly created NYC Cultural Plan. Also, we are participating in the formation process for the newly established Office of Nightlife, through City Council’s Intro no. 1648 and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. Thanks to our charismatic, tireless and ultra committed ally in the New York City Council, Council Member Rafael Espinal this summer we’ve got a repeal bill with already sixteen co-sponsors--despite the vacations and the primaries. This is an issue that touches so many.

In all these months, not once has someone told us the Cabaret Law is good. The only arguments we heard for keeping it were either misinformation about safety and nuisance requirements-these issues are addressed by building, fire and noise codes. Or worse, that this very bad law that has been used to harm so many, can be a useful tool against a few bad elements. We need to have better fairer laws, policies and programs to address nightlife related issues. Criminalizing social dancing for all New Yorkers cannot be the means to address a few bad nightlife actors.

Many people have fought these laws for decades. Please Do the Right Thing: Repeal the Cabaret Law.

NYC Artist Coalition

Join the NYC Artist Coalition

We are an emerging coalition of artists, creative organizations, community leaders, activists, policy makers, and specialists providing mutual support and advocating for informal and affordable community spaces in NYC. Join us in protecting community spaces for all New Yorkers.

* indicates required
Member Listing (select all that apply)