Restaurant Law Blog

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Brooklyn Bar Challenges Cabaret License Law

In 1926, New York City enacted the Cabaret Law.  This law is meant to regulate nightlife activities in bars, restaurants and other establishments.  The legislation has undergone many challenges and has been amended since, but it still not a popular law.  Even Michael Bloomberg tried to change the law during his term as Mayor.  In a 1988 case, the portion of the law prohibiting live music was found to be unconstitutional.  While the portion of the law prohibiting dancing has been challenged, it still stands.  Now the main effect of the law is essentially to prohibit dancing in any establishment without a City issued cabaret license.

In order to obtain a cabaret license an establishment must meet certain surveillance and security requirements and appear before their local community board.  They are then asked to pay a fee, sometimes as much as $1,000, for a license that lasts two years.  

Now, the owner of Muchmore’s a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is challenging the law again in Federal court.  The bar has live music almost every evening but does not have a cabaret license so customers are not permitted to dance. Owner, Andrew Muchmore, is claiming that the law is unconstitutional as it is violates Fourteenth Amendment due process and runs counter to the First Amendment freedom of expression provision of the United States Constitution.

As the City really does not enforce it (collecting only $350 in fines in 2012) and most applications for licenses are approved, the law is seen by many as a moot regulation still in place only to make the owners of establishments jump through hoops, sometimes at a great expense.  While the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs maintains the position that the purpose of the license is safety, they also admit that they are looking at a number of laws, including the Cabaret Law, to see if they can be revised.  

If you are a restaurant, bar or nightclub owner and are seeking a cabaret license, contact the New York restaurant lawyers at the DiPasquale Law Group by calling (646) 383-4607 for a consultation.

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