Mayor Eric Adams Wants to End NYC's Antiquated Anti-Dancing Laws

The proposed changes would affect NYC's zoning rules.

New Yorkers looking to get some new spots to dance in the city might find Mayor Eric Adams to be their biggest supporter.

On Wednesday, June 1, Adams announced that he's looking to make it easier for bars and lounges to host dancing crowds by changing NYC's existing zoning regulations. This set of rules is a leftover from New York's old Cabaret Law, which in 1926 made dancing, singing, and musical entertainment illegal in businesses, like bars, that didn't have a license for it.

The changes proposed by Adams would ensure that the ability to dance in small venues is not affected by zoning regulations, city officials said. In other words, venues won't need a license to allow patrons to dance unless they require cover charges or have show times, which would indicate a larger club-like space. Large establishments that plan to host dancing will still have to be thoroughly reviewed when they apply for a liquor license, The New York Times reports.

Portions of the Cabaret Law were repealed in 2017 by former Mayor Bill de Blasio, but the zoning regulations Adams is targeting have continued to block some businesses from letting their patrons dance. With the new changes, Adams is aiming to supporting the nightlife scene and the small businesses that took a major hit during the pandemic.

"Think about the owner of a tapas bar that has live music on weekends and wants to set aside a small space for dancing, but finds that under city rules, it's not allowed," Adams said in a speech before the Association for a Better New York. "We're going to change that no to a yes, and let the people dance."

The new mandate would also affect zoning rules in regards to housing and businesses, making it easier to expand and repurpose spaces (like turning an unused office space into housing).

"This is a city of continuous and strong spirits, and we're going to move towards the future. The naysaying and dysfunction has already slowed down far too many transformative investments," added Adams. "Change is part of the city's DNA. That's why we need to say yes, yes to the future, yes to our communities, yes to new businesses, and yes to new housing."

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Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.