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.
[Updated November, 2023]
We had completed a further analysis of the NY SLA license database iin March 2023, formerly found at at https://data.ny.gov/Economic-Development/Liquor-Authority-Current-List-of-Active-Licenses/hrvs-fxs2/data. Subsequently, the SLA closed this site in lieu of a new presentation of the same data at NYS Liquor Authority Mapping Project (LAMP). The interface is somewhat funky, and may require an hour or two to figure out how to access the data. We found that the best approach was to download an excel file of all active liquor licenses in the five New York City counties which are On-premises Liquor, Wine, or Beer licenses: (CountyName IN (‘BRONX’,’KINGS’,’NEW YORK’,’QUEENS’,’RICHMOND’)) AND (LicenseSym IN (‘OPB’,’OPL’,’OPW’)). Then export the “attribute table” to a csv file.
The March 2023 analysis showed 11, 257 on-premises licenses in NYC; Patron dancing is allowed in only 278 establishments; Live Music is allowed in only 945 establishment. The new November 2023 analysis shows 11569 establishments with dancing allowed in 243 establishments and explicitly prohibited in 2144. Because the SLA database is dirty and in some entries ambiguous we are satisfied that the data below is substantially accurate.
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 as updated.
(note this analysis corrects and update the previous analysis posted)
|Liquor Licenses in New York City.
|Eating and Drinking Establishment On-Premises Licenses.
|Licenses Allowing Patron Dancing
|Licenses explicitly prohibiting patron dancing.
|Licenses explicitly or implicitly not allowing dancing
|Licenses explicitly allowing Live Music
|Live Music Licenses With Conditions Such as Acoustic, Number of Musicians, Type of Musical Instruments, Private Events etc.
|Licenses Explicitly Prohibiting Live Music.
|Licenses Explicitly/Implicitly Prohibiting Live Music
|Recorded Music Explicitly Allowed
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 https://openfoil.ny.gov/#/newfoilrequest 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.