In formation is the "Coalition of Musicians and Social Dancers to Reform NYC Zoning and Liquor Law Restrictions" to further the activities of those supporting revision of the Zoning Resolution to remove restrictions against social patron dancing and restrictions against the performance of live musicians.
In 2017, musicians included Pedro Giraudo (Grammy Award Winner), Dr. Eli Yamin ( Intergenerational Jazz Power), and Mercedes Ellington submitted statements supporting repeal of the Cabaret Law. Repeal was only one step because the NYC Zoning Resolution continued to ban patron dancing and cover charges for live music in most of New York City (Use Group 6).
Further, the State Liquor Authority (SLA) by the clever use of the so-called Method of Operation, require venues serving liquor state in their Method of Operation/LIquor License whether patron dancing is allowed and whether their are cover charges for live music, and, in practice the SLA coordinates with Community Boards, and will not issue licenses for patron dancing and cover charges without the concurrence of the SLA. Interestingly, many venues located in hotels or Use Group 12 where dancing is allowed, do not have patron dancing included in their Methods of Operations, and are thus subject to arbitrary shut-down by the SLA.
The Mayor has recently proposed reform of the Zoning Resolution to remove some of the dancing restrictions, all of which were added in 1989 when the City lost litigation eliminating the requirement of the Cabaret Law to limit the number of musicians in unlicensed venues and to restrict the types of instruments that may be used in unlicensed venues. Previously, drums, reeds, and horns where prohibited in venues without Cabaret Licenses.
Unfortunately, recent news reports indicate that the restrictions against cover charges for live music will remain in effect.The provision is interpreted by the SLA and Community Boards to mean “cover charges OR show times” rather than “cover charges AND show times” as is evident by their standard forms.
Further, there is nothing to indicate that regulation by the SLA and Community Board will be eliminated. Further, because of expected opposition by Community Boards, it is expected that the Mayor’s reforms will be compromised.
The Coalition will support the following:
- Modification of the Zoning Resolution to remove all restrictions against patron social dancing in Use Group 6 mixed commercial/residential districts.
- Elimination of restrictions against cover charges for live music in Use Group 6, so that musicians may be paid.
- Elimination of regulation of social patron dancing by the SLA, for venues with an occupancy below 600.
- Minimization of the power of Community Boards to restrict patron social dancing and live music in Use Group 6 in reviewing Liquor License Applications or changes to the Method of Operation.
One reason for musicians to voice their concerns is to support initiative by Local 802 to support these goals, whether or not the venue has a contract with Local 802. Most of these gigs are non-union gigs. Interestingly, the musicians user was the active plaintiff in the 1986 and 1988 removing restrictions against music in the Cabaret Law. Chiasson I and Chiasson II.
As to dancers, there is no indication of social dancers/teachers making their voices heard. West Coast Swing teacher, promoter and dancer John Festa was the named plaintiff in the litigation attempting, unsuccessfully, to have provided first amendment freedom of e expression for social dancing.
Those musicians and social dancers wishing to be included in the coalition should contact Alan Sugarman at sugarman at zortmusic.com