NYC votes to repeal 91-year-old law banning dancing in bars

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NEW YORK CITY — The city council voted Tuesday to repeal the Cabaret Law that has made dancing at most bars and clubs illegal for the past 91 years. 

The Prohibition-era law, which is rarely enforced, was crafted in the 1920s to crack down on speakeasies, but has been called racist in years since.

In 1926, Mayor Jimmy Walker took office and said — “strangers come to New York and they want to run wild and there is too much running wild in these nightclubs.”

So, Walker established a law that required these nightclubs to have a Cabaret license if their patrons wanted to dance legally. However, the permits and licenses are not easy to get, and cost money.

Fast forward a few years and the mayors of the city did not care about enforcing that law, which eventually fell to the sidelines — until the Rudy Giuliani administration came along and restored the law.

So, if a bar or club without a Cabaret license has three or more people dancing, a fine is issued.

When the law’s repeal starts, 120 days after the mayor signs it, bars and clubs won’t need a special permit for patrons to dance.

This move is part of a broader agenda set by Council Member Rafael Espinal to support the diverse culture nightlife brings to New York City.

A group called Let NYC Dance — which is a mix of musicians, DJs and bar owners — have been drumming up support for the repeal for months.

In a September hearing, city officials reversed their stance and said they hope to repeal the law.

As of this week, there were only 104 clubs with active cabaret licenses.