New Yorkers can feel free to dance after 91 years

Posted at 4:48 PM, Nov 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-28 16:48:22-05

New Yorkers might still be suffering from frustrating subway delays, but at least they now have one more legal way to unwind.

A repeal of the city's 91-year-old Cabaret Law, which banned dancing in any public establishment without a cabaret license, was signed into law Monday by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Under the law, there were only 104 establishments where the city's more than 8 million residents could dance without breaking the law.

"It's 2017 and this law just didn't make sense," de Blasio said in a statement.

City councilman Rafael Espinal of Brooklyn introduced the repeal bill.

"Artists, musicians, business owners, workers and everyday New Yorkers looking to let loose will no longer have to fear the dance police will shut down their favorite venues," Espinal said Monday in a statement.

The law was enacted in 1926, at the height of the Prohibition, as a way to keep a handle on illegal venues, according to the mayor's office. While the law has not been uniformly enforced during its nine-decade history, it has survived several attempts to repeal it.

The law reared its head in the late 90's as part of then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's efforts to enforce so-called quality-of-life laws across the city.

The mayor's office Monday described the process of obtaining a Cabaret license as "expensive and time-consuming."

The New York City Council tweeted from its official account last month that the law unfairly targeted specific establishments in among the city's black, gay and Latino communities. The repeal passed the legislative body 44 to 1.

For some, the law was reminiscent of the 1984 movie "Footloose," in which Iowa teenagers are prohibited from dancing. Kevin Bacon, the film's star, was apparently among them, tweeting a link to a story on the City Council vote and writing, simply, "#CutLoose".

Though the restrictions have been lifted, establishments that wish to have public dancing will still be required under New York City law to have security cameras and to keep a roster of whatever licensed security guards they use.