State Liquor Authority Regulation of Dancing and Music – Method of Operations and License Database

The New York State Liquor Authority is the dominant regulator of music and dancing in New York City. Reform of the zoning law will not remove the SLA regulation. Over 1900 liquor licenses in New York City require licensed venues to prohibit dancing; over 3880 license do not allow live music.

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We have completed a preliminary analysis of the NY SLA license database at  https://data.ny.gov/Economic-Development/Liquor-Authority-Current-List-of-Active-Licenses/hrvs-fxs2/data.

It is clear that modifying the zoning will not resolve the problem of excessive regulation of dancing and music in New York City.

See The New York State Liquor Authority & Regulation of Music and Dancing by Method of Operation.

The SLA data is messy and inconsistent: it is not straightforward to filter out relevant licenses.

First, we looked at just the 5 counties in New York and then filtered out license types such as grocery stores, liquor stores, etc. leaving about 8600 licenses. I then filtered the information in the “Days/Hours of Operation” column and the “Other Column” which together appear to describe the Method of Operation under the license. It is not clear which conditions are a result of CB Stipulations and which are a result of the Method of Operation form submitted with the license.

About half of the license had not conditions relating to music or dancing. Approximately 3800 licenses did not allow live music: only 150 licenses or so allowed live music.

Concerning dancing, 1900 licenses prohibit dancing and 151 licenses specifically allow “patron dancing.”

The SLA actively participates in M.A.R.C.H. to enforce the Method of Operations provisions. M.A.R.C.H. is a program managed by the Mayor’s Office with the N.Y.P.D. and DOB as partners.  The Community Boards are also entities of the City and collaborates with the SLA.  It seems that many license applicants

In 1986 and 1988 the City lost two litigations (Chiasson I and Chiasson II) declaring music restrictions in the Zoning Resolution and the Cabaret Law as unconstitutional.  DOB enforces the Zoning Resolution. Many of the music restrictions in the SLA Methods of Operation are in conflict with those decisions.

The Chiasson decisions are discussed in Professor Chevingy’s book, Chevigny – Gigs: Jazz and the Cabaret Laws in New York City. The Chiasson cases were brought by Local 802 of the Musicians Union.

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