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Dancing is on the ropes, not the bar, in New York City

no dancing

Old law is meant to protect neighborhoods

April 4, 1997
Web posted at: 9:44 p.m. EST (0244 GMT)

From Correspondent Gary Tuchman

NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York is a fun town that's normally tolerant of different standards of behavior.

That's why the owner of an extremely popular bar called Hogs and Heifers was stunned when police came into his establishment recently and announced he was being shut down.

"I said, 'What's going on here?'" says owner Allan Dell. "And they were very intimidating -- smirking and laughing. And they said, 'You're being padlocked.'

"I said, 'For what?'

"They said, 'For dancing.'

"I said, 'You're kidding me.'

"They weren't kidding."

Law meant to protect neighborhoods

The bar was made famous by its clientele. People like Tony Curtis and Julia Roberts have danced on the bar at Hogs and Heifers, but no one is dancing there these days. And there is a sign that says very clearly that dancing is not allowed.


Dell, as might be expected, is not very happy.

"This is a joke," he says. "This is 'Footloose' in New York City. It's wrong. There's no two ways to look at this."

The 1984 movie "Footloose," in which Iowa teen-agers are prohibited from public dancing, is being talked about quite a bit these days in New York. But city officials say stricter enforcement of a 1926 law that prohibits dancing without a cabaret license helps protect neighborhoods.

License being sought

It's a quality-of-life issue, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says.

"It's a good thing," he adds. "And if we were to move away from it because there's some pressure, because a couple of high-profile places are putting the squeeze on, you're going to see real difficulties in the neighborhoods in the city."


Dell says he is trying to get a cabaret license for Hogs and Heifers, but he still thinks it's ridiculous.

"It's bizarre, and its overkill," he says. "There's no reason to approach this problem with that kind of approval."

Human behavior being what it is, people are going to dance with or without a license, and the police are going to have to decide whether a 1926 statute has been violated.

Call New York City anything you want, but don't call it boring.

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