New York City: Studio 54, Paradise Garage, CBGBís...Out of establishments like these trends have been set and have spawned cultural and social movements. New York and nightlife and synonymous and is a main reason that the city has become the epicenter of so many developments in music and lifestyle.
Since taking office, Mayor Rudy Guiliani has resurrected the ancient Prohibition-era Cabaret Law. The law states that an establishment must be licensed if the club features three or more musicians, or if any of the instruments is percussion or brass, or if there is three or more people moving in synchronized fashion." The basis of this law was used to target and raid underground jazz clubs. Now Guiliani, as part of this multi-agency Nightclub Enforcement Task Force, has mobilized a Gestapo-like squad to strictly enforce this law throughout Manhattan and making the process of obtaining the license it near impossible.
On Tuesday evening, music industry community group Mishpucha, organized a panel discussion entitled NYC: No Dancing Allowed to bring together views, thoughts and ideas around the issue of the Cabaret Law in New York City. Included in the panel was moderator Ethan Brown from New York Magazine, Robert Bookman ñ legal counsel for NY Nightlife Association, John Davis founder of Body and Soul, Robert Pritchard from the Dance Liberation Front, David Rabin co-owner of Lotus, Philip Rodriguez owner of Baktun, Norman Siegel former Executive Director of NY Civil Liberties Union and legendary house DJ Nicky Siano. This diverse cast of nightlife players debated this almost laughable and archaic law and its implications in New Yorkís current club culture.
The Cabaret Law is no laughing matter. Just ask owners of legendary clubs like Coney Island High, Baby Jupiter, Vain, Rivertown Lounge, Knitting Factory and Lakeside Lounge who have all been find, padlocked or shutdown completely for illegal dancing. These ëbuckets of bloodí as Guiliani refers to them are just a few examples of the Cabaret Law being enforced with a vengeance.
Perhaps the strongest sentiment felt during the panel was that many in the room ñ weather it be nightclub owners, promoters, dancers, or musicians was that they came to New York to be able to explore their artistic dreams. Now the places that these people can express themselves is being pinched and shut down ñ all for the fundamental act of moving oneís body. Part of this is the expression of dance which can be anything from shaking your ass to house beats, getting sexy to salsa or rockiní your socks off to good old rock ní roll. With this right and human form of social engagement taken away, the culture as a whole is seriously damaged.
Outspoken former Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Norman Siegel may have put it best when he said that when looking back on this period 20 years from now, many will see the boom in economy, gentrification and cleaning up the quality of life in the NY City. However looming over this sunny period will also be a very dark cloud for NY culture where nightlife that was once was vital, alive and striving turned oppressed, subverted and bland.
The packed house at the Makor center last night was a strong and passionate first step in making change and abolishing this asinine law and return New York to the forefront of club, dance and overall music culture.
Source: Danny Wirtz