Historian Burton Perreti’s 2007 well researched history of New York City nightlife includes a detailed 10-page background of the 1926 Cabaret Law which refutes any claim that the law was directed at Harlem, jazz, and interracial nightclubs. For Mayor Walker, the Cabaret Law was intended primarily to provide a closing time of 3:00 AM and was intended to bring the new nightlife under effective government oversight.
A New York Times article from June 30, 1926 describes Mayor Walker’s debating the proposed Cabaret Law curfew and providing contemporary color as to “running wild” and “visitors from outside the city” creating disturbances. The contemporaneous account undermines the implied view that the preamble to the enacted law establishes racism.
Constitutional Law Attorney and Counsel for Plaintiffs in Chevigny and Festa Cases book on the Cabaret Law and litigation to eliminate restrictions against music.
Article in CityLand concerning proposed zoning changes.
Published by Harvard University Press in 2008, historian Michael Lerner’s Dry Manhattan is an exhaustive history of prohibition in New York City. Lerner wrote that “It has been argued that Walker’s cabaret law was later used to regulate jazz clubs and, in particular , interracial dancing in Harlem clubs, but there is little evidence that this was the case during Walker’s administration.” Lerner researched the contemporaneous Harlem newspapers and magazines for the Renaissance Era, apparently finding no evidence that at the time the Cabaret Law and in the following years, there was no evidence to support this claim.
The New York Times published an article by Jeffery C. Mays and Julia Carmel on June 1, 2022 concerning Mayor Adams’ initiative to reform prohibitions against dancing in the Zoning Resolution. The article misses some important points, and, alas, for no reason as to the purpose of the article, repeats the debunked claim that the Cabaret Law targeted racially mixed jazz clubs in Harlem.
Journalist Derek Evers wrote this article at the time the Cabaret Law was repealed in November 2017 – pointing out the relative meaningless of the repeal, the dancing ban in many districts under the Zoning Resolution, and the dancing restrictions imposed by the State Liquor Authority. The accompanying photo shows City politicians patting backs on the repeal, which was followed by five years of failure to address the real issues.