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NYC’s Office of Nightlife expected to be here by 2018

Committee of Consumer Affairs Passes Bill

August 4, 2017 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“The Cabaret Law, with its infamous racist and homophobic history, has horrible effects to this day… Social dancing is not a crime,” wrote NYC Artist Coalition in a statement. Photo by Mark Cole

It is no longer a question of if, but rather when the Office of Nightlife will be established and the “racist” Cabaret Law repealed.

The new agency, which was proposed by Councilmember Rafael Espinal, will be here by Jan. 21, 2018 at the latest. Here’s why:

In June, Espinal officially introduced the bill at a Consumer Affairs Committee hearing. Several panels spoke at the gathering and fielded questions from Espinal.

More than 200 people from artists and musicians, to business owners and labor unions attended the meeting. Following the assembly, Espinal incorporated feedback that he heard and altered the bill accordingly.

On Friday morning, the Committee of Consumer Affairs officially passed Espinal’s Office of Nightlife bill. This victory for the councilmember comes just over a month after he initially introduced the bill.

On Aug. 24, it will go in front of the full City Council, where it is expected to pass.

“No bills go to the committee or council unless we know they will pass, so this is a sure deal,” Espinal’s Director of Communications Erika Tannor told the Brooklyn Eagle.

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“After the full council votes on it, Mayor [Bill de Blasio] has 30 days to sign the bill into law. Even if he doesn’t sign it in 30 days, it still becomes law. Then, within 120 days of that, the bill goes into effect and the Office of Nightlife and the Advisory Board get to work.”

Espinal, who represents Bushwick, Brownsville, Cypress Hills and East New York, wants the Office of Nightlife to be led by a director or “night mayor.”

The new position’s responsibilities would include regulating the nightlife industry, helping DIY venues stay open and creating a safer partying environment.

The director will be responsible for conducting outreach to nightlife establishments, acting as a liaison for those venues, referring those organizations to city services, reviewing 311 complaints and holding at least one public hearing in each borough, among other duties.

The bill will also establish a Nightlife Advisory Board that will be comprised of 12 members: Four to be appointed by the mayor and eight by the speaker of the Council to serve for a two-year term.

“NYC is one step closer to bringing nightlife out of the bureaucratic shadows,” said Espinal. “From DIY venues to nightclubs, this bill accurately reflects the diversity of the NYC nightlife scene and makes it possible to recognize the contributions these spaces make.

“I am happy to see the quick progress of this legislation and look forward to continuing conversations with local communities, workers, small businesses and nightlife advocates on how NYC can be supportive of the nightlife experience.”

The first matter of business for the new office will be to repeal the antiquated and “racist” Cabaret Law. The law states that people can only dance in venues that possess a cabaret license, but these certificates are extremely difficult to obtain.

The rule, which was created in 1926, prohibits dancing by three or more people in any “room, place or space in the city,” to which the public may gain admission and includes “musical entertainment, singing, dancing or other form[s] of amusement.”

According to NYC Artist Coalition, an organization that “[protects] community spaces,” the Cabaret Law was created and used to break up underground black institutions at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, and it was reinforced by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the ’90s to target gay and lesbian bars.

“The Cabaret Law, with its infamous racist and homophobic history, has horrible effects to this day… Social dancing is not a crime,” wrote NYC Artist Coalition in a statement.

“We advocate for the safety and preservation of informal cultural spaces, such as DIY music venues. The Cabaret Law is currently used to criminalize such spaces and it forces our communities underground and into unsafe environments.”

In April, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce hosted an event at Brooklyn Bowl that released the results of a report studying the economic impact of music in New York City.

The study revealed that the music industry supports roughly 60,000 jobs, accounts for $5 billion in wages and creates $21 billion in total economic output for the city.

In 2015, New York’s concert tickets accounted for $5.4 million, which was more than Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago combined.

“The nighttime industry is vital to our city, influencing NYC’s culture, music and art while generating an economic impact of more than $9.7 billion,” said Andrew Rigie of NYC Hospitality Alliance.

“For these reasons and more, the NYC Hospitality Alliance is thankful to Councilmember Espinal’s leadership, and we’re looking forward to the creation of the Office of Nightlife, helping to ensure that NYC remains the ‘City That Never Sleeps.’”

 

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