After almost a century, New Yorkers will be able to dance again without restrictions, after the city decided to repeal a rule that prohibited dance in most bars in the Big Apple.
The Cabaret Act of 1926, passed in full Prohibition and amended on several occasions, limited the dance until now to establishments that had an extremely difficult license to obtain.
So difficult, that it is estimated that only a hundred of the more than 25,000 bars and restaurants in New York have it today.
So, if you have moved your hips in a place in the Big Apple, it is most likely that you have done so in breach of the law.
The anachronistic situation for a city that boasts of being one of the world leisure capitals came to an end on Tuesday with a vote in the City Council.
At the initiative of the councilor of Dominican origin Rafael Espinal, the local authorities decided to repeal the Law of Cabarés, a decision that now must be signed by the mayor, Bill de Blasio, who has already said he supports the initiative.
“It is time for us to fix this historic error,” Espinal defended on Tuesday, which included the fact that the law pushes people to dance in unregulated and unsafe places.
Although few establishments have been persecuted in recent years under this rule, Espinal and many critics of the law denounced that it was a limitation of cultural expressions and that, given its arbitrary application, it was used to act against vulnerable communities.
This discriminatory nature has been linked to the Cabaret Law since its inception, as it is widely believed that the main reason for its creation was to take measures against jazz clubs in Harlem where people of different races were mixed.
Originally, the standard required bars to obtain a license to be able to have music, but over the decades it was subject to numerous modifications
Between 1940 and 1967, for example, New York required under this law that artists who performed in cabarets and employees working in such establishments should also have a license.
To get it they had to undergo interviews and have no criminal record and then renew it periodically.
Big stars like Ray Charles or Billie Holiday could not act in the city during parts of their careers after losing their license due to problems with the law.
Frank Sinatra refused for a time to sing in the Big Apple for the obligation of requesting permission, which he considered “unworthy”.
After falling almost into oblivion during the 70s and 80s, Mayor Rudy Giuliani-now a well-known ally of President Donald Trump-recovered the law in the 1990s to use it as part of his controversial campaign against crime in the city.
According to activists, under the Giuliani Administration the norm was used among other things to act against the homosexual community.
The current mayor, Democrat De Blasio, has nevertheless endorsed the end of the law, promoted by a campaign dubbed “Let NYC Dance.”
According to this coalition, in New York there is a “de facto prohibition” of dance in its social aspect, which restricts the “fundamental rights of cultural expression” and that also leads to discriminatory practices.
For example, according to this group, the police systematically target hip-hop concerts, frequented mostly by African-American youth.
Despite the repeal of the law, some of its provisions will remain in force, such as the obligation to have cameras and security personnel in establishments with more capacity.