Nightlife-loving mayor Adams offers plan to ‘let people dance’

During his first six months as mayor, Eric Adams established a reputation as a staple of New York nightlife.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Mr. Adams has proposed changing the city’s zoning rules to make it easier for New Yorkers to dance in bars and restaurants.

Although the city repealed its Cabaret Act, a 1926 regulation that prohibited holding unlicensed dancing, singing, or musical performances, zoning law restrictions prevented many establishments from allowing the dance.

“Think of the owner of a tapas bar who has live music on the weekends and wants to reserve a small space to dance, but finds that according to city rules, it’s not allowed,” said Wednesday Mr. Adams during a speech before the Association. for a better New York. “We’re going to change that no to yes, and let people dance.”

Supporting the city’s nightlife isn’t just about fun, the mayor said. It’s also part of an effort to help small business owners still trying to recover from more than two years of the pandemic’s devastating effects on the economy.

But too many bars and restaurants are hampered by outdated zoning regulations that ban dancing, among other things, Mr Adams said on Wednesday, adding that he intended to change outdated zoning rules that were interfering with recovery from the city.

“Far too many organizations don’t understand that part of their mandate is to allow the city to grow and prosper,” Adams said. “Don’t start with no. Start with how can we get to yes. How do we build our city?

Proposed changes to the city’s zoning rules would, for example, allow a small retailer looking to expand its sales operations to other businesses to do so without moving to an area zoned for manufacturing; they would allow owners to convert the second floor of their home into rental units without having to add a parking space; and the changes would facilitate the conversion of unused office space into housing.

Other zoning changes would facilitate the installation of solar panels and the creation of charging stations for electric vehicles. Adams said the city also wants to use smart zoning to increase opportunities around four new Metro-North stations slated to open in the Bronx in 2027.

Planning officials will begin a public engagement process to develop language for the zoning enactment amendments. There will be an environmental review of the proposed changes and City Council will need to approve the changes.

New York has suffered from the pandemic but is starting to see some job growth, said James Parrott, an economist at the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. The city added 39,400 jobs in April, including 7,200 in the full-service restaurant industry

Changes to zoning regulations that make it legal for bars and restaurants to allow dancing are a continuation of the repeal of the Cabaret Act of 1926 which prohibited holding dancing, singing or musical entertainment without license. It is widely believed that the law was used to target co-ed jazz clubs in Harlem.

The rule was widely enforced in all venues in the city, and music was not permitted in bars without a cabaret license until 1936. The city required cabaret employees and performers to carry “cabaret cards” and also have their fingerprints. A prior criminal record could be used to deny applicants cabaret cards, and famous musicians such as Ray Charles and Billie Holiday were ineligible.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani used the cabaret law to enforce his quality of life initiatives, but Mayor Bill de Blasio repealed the law in 2017. Even after the law was repealed, the rules of City zoning still prevented dancing in certain restaurants or bars.

The proposed changes will remove dancing from consideration under zoning laws and instead rely on indicators such as whether venues have cover charges or show times and therefore might need a license, have said city officials.

Ariel Palitz, executive director of the office of nightlife in the mayor’s office for media and entertainment, said in an email that Mr. Adams was essentially carrying out “unfinished business” left behind by the repeal of the law on the cabaret.

Larger establishments that want to offer dancing will still be subject to review when applying for a liquor license and will be subject to fire and noise rules and community review, Keith said. Powers, the majority leader of the city council.

Business owners have expressed relief at the upcoming changes.

“All these tiny, weird things affect how you function,” said Diana Mora, who helped found NYC Nightlife United and runs Friends and Lovers in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. A more comprehensive repeal of the cabaret law helps eliminate the fear that even if businesses try to follow the rules, “someone will come in, something will happen.” You will be closed.

John Barclay, owner of Paragon, was involved with the Dance Liberation Network which pushed for the repeal of the Cabaret Act in 2017. He said the law was “enforced against very predictable bands”, such as the places frequented by blacks and Latinos.

“If a law or regulation is founded with a clear and bigoted intent or if the results of its application are clearly racist or bigoted in any way, it must be repealed categorically,” he said.

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