New Yorkers are now free to dance.
Since it was implemented in 1926, the law has required bars and clubs to have a cabaret license to allow dancing. Without the license, businesses hosting dancing was vulnerable to police raids and getting shut down.
However, like most of America’s past (and, let’s be real, the present), lawmakers in the ‘20s had ulterior motives. The law was originally rooted in racism and targeted places like Harlem jazz clubs,where blacks and whites danced together.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, the law targeted LGBTQ clubs like Stonewall, which ignited riots in 1969. More recently, this law made it nearly impossible for D.I.Y. venues to stay open due to the extremely expensive fees and lengthy legal processes in obtaining the license. Beloved D.I.Y. venues like Shea Stadium, Palisades, Market Hotel and many others had to close their doors because of difficulty navigating the cabaret law.
That’s all in the past now. Mayor de Blasio has officially signed off on the repeal and NYC can dance with no repercussions.
Founders of Elsewhere, Popgun Presents, know the cabaret law’s effects all too well. Co-founder and director of operations Dhruv Chopra recounted Popgun’s early days in NYU dorms and talked about how New Yorkers have traditionally fostered artistic expression and diversity of thought—even when their government haven’t made it easy to do so.
“As amazing as this city is, sometimes you feel like culture flourishes here in spite of the city and not because of it,” Chopra said.
Elsewhere isn’t Popgun’s first venue. They were behind the grungy D.I.Y. Glasslands in East Williamsburg, which the New York Times called this era’s CBGB. However, they were bought out by Vice Media (along with the other infamous D.I.Y. venue Death By Audio), and shut their doors in 2014.
It took them years of work to get Elsewhere on its feet. With the cabaret law gone, new venues will face a much easier process.