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November 19, 2003

DCA Proposes New ‘Nightlife License’ to Address Community Concerns New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra today announced a proposal that would abolish the City’s cabaret law and institute a new nightlife license to address ongoing community concerns including noise, disorderly crowds, and dirty sidewalks. The proposal, unique in the nation, will require City Council approval. Under the proposal, establishments meeting all three of the following criteria will be required to obtain a two-year nightlife license from the DCA:

- Located in residential and some mixed-use zones with a capacity of more than 75 or in commercial, manufacturing, and mixed-use zones with a capacity of more than200.

- Choose to have continuous live or reproduced sound at a noise level of 90 decibels or higher.

- Remain open after 1:00AM.

Licensed nightlife establishments will be able to choose the noise level they wish to maintain and must have a professional sound engineer certify that they are in compliance with the City’s Noise Code at that level.

"New York City has the most exciting nightlife in the world," said DCA CommissionerGretchen Dykstra. "However, the cabaret law regulating establishments with dancing does not effectively address what have become perennial problems for communities and law enforcement.

Regulations should address problems, and we have found that the problems are consistently the same -- noise emanating from establishments, disorderly crowds, and dirty sidewalks. This proposal promotes a lively nightlife without requiring a license to dance, and most importantly, it will improve the quality-of-life in neighborhoods and strengthen enforcement to effectively deal with poorly managed places."

During the past year, the DCA has worked to review the existing law with multiple government agencies, City Council members, and dozens of cabaret/bar owners, noise consultants, community groups, dance organizations, and other trade associations. In addition, the DCA held a public hearing in June 2003 with expert panels and public testimony.
Highlights of the proposal include:

- Establishments that meet the same criteria three times or less in one year will be able to obtain an expedited special nightlife permit.

- The proposal will not change existing fire and zoning regulations.

- The local Community Boards will have a 45-day comment period to report its recommendation on a new application.

- Establishments with capacity levels of 500 or more occupants will be required to have one state-certified security guard for every 50 occupants. These guards would also be responsible for maintaining order outside the establishment when needed.

- Nightlife establishments must make a good faith effort to ensure that the crowds entering or leaving do not cause disturbances and that vehicles outside are quiet. In addition, establishments will be required to keep the areas outside the establishment clean.

- Following New York City Department of Environmental Protection standards, the DCA will be authorized to enforce the Noise Code using digital sound meters recognized by the industry.

- DCA will be authorized to order occupants to vacate the premises immediately if exit doors or fire doors are found blocked or locked.

- Violations for licensees (which will include exceeding the chosen noise level) would range up to $250 for the first violation and up to $1,000 for the third violation. If a licensee receives three adjudicated license violations within two years, DCA will be authorized to padlock the
establishment for up to 30 days.

- DCA will be able to revoke a license if the location is repeatedly in violation of any three of the following egregious City or State laws: unlicensed sale of liquor; sale of liquor to minors; overcapacity; disabled sprinkler systems, exit signs or emergency lighting; blocked or locked exits; assault; rape or attempted rape; possessions of weapons; or homicide.

The City’s Cabaret Law was promulgated in 1926 and currently covers establishments that serve food and/or drink to the public and have patrons dancing. It is illegal to operate a cabaret in New York City without a license from the DCA. Noise emanating from bars and clubs continues to be a top complaint at 311, theCity’s 24-hour citizen service hotline. For a list of common noise levels and zoning maps, visit www.nyc.gov.

For the entire article, click here

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