A good thing about living in New York is that it doesn’t bear much resemblance to the small Midwestern backwater of Bomont, the setting of the documentary Footloose. Oddly, the one way life in New York mirrors life in Bomont is that dancing is strictly regulated, with anyone who wants to host “public dancing” in their establishment required to get a cabaret license from the government. The owner of Williamsburg’s Muchmore’s doesn’t think that’s fair, and according to the Wall Street Journal is now suing the city of New York over the constitutionality of the cabaret law.
The Journal reports that Andrew Muchmore (so now you know where the name comes from) is tired of booking acts that won’t encourage public dancing, so he’s suing the city on the grounds the the cabaret law violates the first and 14th amendments. Since Muchmore’s doesn’t have a cabaret license, a raid by the city on a show at which people dance would not only be charmingly old-timey, but would result in a fine of $100/day. The law, a 90-year-old piece of legislation that’s a holdover from the days of Jazz Age-interracial mixing, according to author and historian Michael Lerner, who the paper talked to, reads:
Any room, place, or space in New York City in which patron dancing is permitted in connection with the restaurant business or a business that sells food and/or beverages to the public requires a Cabaret license.
Muchmore, and a few other nightlife promoters, say that the requirement for a $150 to $1000 license is an onerous requirement that hurts options for fun in the city. Still, the Journal found hospitality and nightlife lobbyists who weren’t against the law, and legal precedent came down against the idea of social dancing as first amendment-protected activity. Still, if Muchmore’s wins, you’ve gotta imagine the first party the bar hosts is a Footloose party. Hell, they could probably even get Kenny Loggins to show up.
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