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Think I better dance, now! Two Bushwick councilmen fight for your right to party! • Brooklyn Paper

Think I better dance, now! Two Bushwick councilmen fight for your right to party!

Let them dance: Hundreds of people packed into the Market Hotel on Thursday night for the meeting on efforts to repeal the cabaret law.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

They can dance if they want to!

Two hard-partying Brooklyn councilmen are backing a bill that will free bars and restaurants to let patrons get their groove on without the threat of being targeted by the city’s dance police.

Councilmen Rafael Espinal (D–Bushwick) and Antonio Reynoso (D–Bushwick) say they are tired of an antiquated city law that bans dancing in bistros and dives without a hard-to-get cabaret license not the least of which because they are the ones cutting a rug.

“I’ve probably danced illegally more than anyone in this room, it’s what I do,” said Reynoso at a standing-room-only meeting on the law last Thursday at the Market Hotel in Bushwick. “It’s what I have a passion for so you’ll catch me dancing illegally in other places until we get this law gone from the book.”

Espinal added that he enjoys getting down too, telling the crowd that he went on an Ok Cupid date eight years ago during which he danced all night at the same hotel while drinking 40 oz. of malt liquor he bought at the bodega downstairs.

That isn’t allowed thanks to the controversial Prohibition-era Cabaret Law, which some say was put in place to target black jazz clubs, that sics cops on venues that allow people to boogie without a license. It was revved up back in the 1990s when then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani to put nightclubs out of business, and the pols say it has since wreaked havoc in Brooklyn, where inspectors cite people for not obeying the law frequently with fines up to $3,000 for the first offense.

Activists claim Brooklynites are going to get down no matter what, and the law is forcing them into unsafe spaces — like the Oakland, California warehouse that burnt down with dozens of revelers inside — so they can move freely.

Espinal said repealing the law is one of his top priorities right now, and he is trying to drum up support for the issue amongst his fellow Council members in the coming weeks.

But he thinks some pols might not get on board because they fear scrapping the law will impede on safety and serenity in the neighborhoods people are dancing.

“I think there’s a lot of hesitation because they believe the law is in place to protect public safety and improve quality of life in communities,” he said.

Espinal added he is in the process of crafting legislation that will repeal the law.

The move comes less than a week after members of the activist group the Dance Liberation Network went live with its petition to repeal the law, which now has nearly 3,000 signatures.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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