State Liquor Authority – 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 9000 license do not allow live music.

We have completed a further analysis of the

NY SLA license database at and have provided a more accurate result. From the 11, 257 on-premises licenses in NYC, Patron dancing is allowed in only 278 establishments; Live Music is allowed in only 945 establishment.

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

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. We 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.

Analysis of SLA License Database as of March 15, 2023

(note this analysis corrects and update the previous analysis posted0

Liquor Licenses in New York City. 20,255
Eating and Drinking Establishment On-Premises Licenses. 11,257
Licenses Allowing Patron Dancing 278
Licenses explicitly prohibiting patron dancing. 2314
Licenses explicitly or implicitly not allowing dancing 7,883
Licenses explicitly allowing Live Music 945
Live Music Licenses With Conditions Such as Acoustic, Number of Musicians, Type of Musical Instruments, Private Events etc. 361
Licenses Explicitly Prohibiting Live Music. 1032
Licenses Explicitly/Implicitly Prohibiting Live Music 9,134
Recorded Music Explicitly Allowed 6,379

About 9100 licenses have no conditions relating to music or dancing. Approximately 9,134 licenses do not allow live music, with 1032 explicit prohibitions: 945 licenses explicitly allow live music.

Concerning dancing, 2314 licenses explicitly prohibit dancing; only 278 licenses specifically allow “patron dancing.”

Although SLA is a state agency, it is practically unable to function without the assistance of New York City agencies.  The SLA requires the assistance of the NYPD and Department of Buildings for enforecement.  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 in review applications including the contents of the Method of Operations.

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 and three jazz musicians.

It appears that the database entries relating to Hours and Other are often incomplete and the database cannot be relied upon.

The database incorrectly describes the type of operation as “Method of Operation”  when the Method of Operation is actually in the Hours and Other column.  In other words, the database uses the phrase “Method of Operation” in a manner inconsistent to how the SLA uses the term in its application and other documents.

One may submit a FOIL request to the SLA at to determine the Method of Operation, but the SLA does not maintain good records and  has been  unable to  provide information as to the Method of Operation of  particular establishments in responsible to specific FOIL requests.





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