We (me Alan Sugarman among others) have been involved in the reform of regulations against dancing for many years. We are swing, salsa, and tango social partner dancers and producers of big band and related swing dance events. I am an attorney.
This site is intended to collect together information concerning dance regulation reform and to provide historic perspective, updating efforts of another site by Zort Music. Efforts at reform prior to 2017 include the Chiasson and Festa litigation from 1986 forward and efforts of organizations such as Dance Parade.
I may be reached at sugarman-at-zortmusic.com and would appreciate additions, corrections and differing views, if supported by facts and citations to documentation.
I testified in 2017 in support of the repeal of the Cabaret Law, emphasizing the more important need to reform the zoning resolution.
Unlike almost all those testifying in support of repeal, my testimony was that of the perspective of a social partner dancer to live music events, such as that offered by Midsummer Night Swing. Others testifying had a perspective of nightclubs with recorded music and free style dancing. My concern were restaurants and small venues in the city which wished to allow social dancing without the threat of a shutdown, often at the behest of the State Liquor Authority.
Through my big band contacts, I arranged for the testimony at the City Council hearing of Mercedes Ellington in support of repeal.
I also disagreed with characterizing the Cabaret Law as being fundamentally racist as not only not supported by history, but counter-productive. Among other things, I was aware of the impact of the regulations upon many social dancers who were not from minority communities and that the law was a broad opportunity offender in that all were affected. Attacking those who may have reasonable issues with loud disruptive venues in residential areas as racist is counter-productive, in my view. Legitimate historians disagree with the claim of racism.
I had previously in 2015 provided an affidavit in support of the Muchmore litigation, though refusing to repeat the racism meme. The racism meme was being used as a litigation strategy to argue that the law should be struck down as racist, from the beginning, so as to get around adverse decisions in Festa and Stanglin.
Coupled with the Cabaret Law repeal was the creation of an Office of Nightlife in the Mayor’s Media Office and the creation of an Advisory Board. Again, the Advisory Board had little representation of social partner dancing. I was invited to testify to the Board, and I provided a comprehensive report to the Board, which acknowledged the presentation.
I also wrote several letters in 2019 asking the Department of City planning to undertake a review of dancing regulations in the Zoning Resolution. The Department, which is under the oversight of the Mayor’s Office, should no interest in conducting such a review. Although de Blasio boasted of the repeal of the Cabaret Law, his administration did little to move along the issue of reform of the Zoning Resolution.
I also offered testimony to the City Council as to the MARCH swat teams consisting of the NYPD and the SLA under the overview of the Mayor’s office. These swat teams would often, without warning, show up on weekend nights, and shut down venues.
The Cabaret Law was repealed in 2017 but had little impact because the Zoning Resolution remained unchanged, while politicians boasted about the repeal. I then focused as well on the heavy handed regulation by the New York State Liquor Authority – regulation which will remain in effect, even were the Zoning Resolution to be reformed.
In August, 2019 a very insightful resolution was proposed to the New York City Council to reform the Zoning Resolution, but the term ended with no action. In June, 2022, the Mayor issued a press release as to upcoming action to reform the Zoning Resolution, but leaving in doubt action re the elephant in the room, the State Liquor Authority, working with Community Boards.
What is clear is that the review of the Zoning Resolution could have proceeded without any action by the City Council, because the Mayors since 2017 could have directed the the Department of City Planning conduct a review. As this is written in June 2022, one wonders if the Department of City planning had commenced the review it, so clearly had been unwilling to conduct previously.