New Yorkers Rally For Right To Dance
"Dancing is not a crime", chanted about 100 people at a rally yesterday at Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's townhouse. The gathering was organized to protest Bloomberg's continuing enforcement of a 1926 cabaret license law. Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani resurrected the prohibition-era law, once aimed especially at jazz clubs, and by the '60s only used against gay bars.
According to Giuliani, banning dancing at businesses without cabaret licenses was an issue of quality of life and the protection of neighborhoods. It may have made sense to some as a justification for shutting down strip clubs, but doesn't it start to make less sense as it extends to rave clubs, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs where "subdued Wilco fans" are just there to see a show.
The licenses are very expensive, and may be denied for any number of reasons. That's not surprising since they're being used as a means of controlling land use. Some businesses may be shut down by police until they can get a license, a process that takes months. There are now only 244 NYC establishments where people can legally dance.
After one unsuccessful challenge of the cabaret law, and with an appeal underway, other efforts are focussing on City Hall. The argument there is: if the rationale for enforcing the law is noise, why not keep noise laws without being so restrictive about dancing? And if noise is the rationale, why isn't noise required to violate the cabaret law?
It's quite odd. A waltz, a cha-cha, a kid bopping around while eating lunch with their friends, a couple's first dance after they get married... all are treated the same under the old law, and a second violation is enough to shut a place down.
Well, Mayor Bloomberg, if there's anything the hit motion picture Footloose taught us, it's that you can't stop the kids from dancing. Footloose was based on real events that occurred in Elsnore City Oaklahoma, namely a minister's efforts to use an old law, still on the books, to ban the prom. He felt dancing was "a tool of the devil". There was an uproar, and the school board approved the students' request for a prom.
Sure, you can "ban" dancing. Or place draconian restrictions on it. But kids of all ages won't stand for it. You and your Bacon number of infinity might as well give up now.
Three years ago, Bloomberg danced the merengue in the Dominican Republic. Maybe rather than figure out where they're allowed to dance, he'd like more New Yorkers to follow his lead and take their burning desire to dance and their American money abroad.
LEGALIZE DANCING NYC is an umbrella group working to repeal the anti-dancing law. They have a newsgroup, an online petition, and links to email Mayor Bloomberg and members of the City Council.
Kenny Loggins - Footloose (available on the Footloose soundtrack, etc.)
Elvis Costello - No Dancing (available on My Aim Is True)
Nouvelle Vague - Dancing With Myself (available on Bande A Part)