Nightlife legislation of the United States

Nightlife legislation of the United States

Nightlife legislation of the United States is mostly in local jurisdiction of the city or state.


New York

In New York City, legislation was enacted in 2006, affecting many areas of nightlife. This legislation was in response to a number of murders which occurred in the New York City area, some involving nightclubs and bouncers.


The year 2006 had started with the murder of a young child, Nixzmary Brown. While this murder case didn't initially start Nightlife Legislation, it had occurred within a short time of another murder of a young criminology student. The recollection of Brown's murder, still fresh in the public's mind, was then refocused in February with another murder brought to the New York City public's attention. This one was the brutal torture, rape and strangulation murder of Imette St. Guillen, a John Jay College Graduate Student, which killing and lurid details later captured the nation's attention.[1] St. Guillen's murder, related to a bar and a bouncer with a criminal record, would strongly bring the public focus on New York City's nightlife. There were protests against The Falls bar for the bar owner's lying to police[2] followed by initial discussion of nightlife. Later, a shooting incident involving a bouncer named Stephen Sakai,[3][4] who used a gun to kill some club patrons at Opus 22, further brought the public's focus on nightlife and bouncers. The June 18 murder of a 16-year-old named Chanel Petro-Nixon, and then the July 25 rape-murder of another student, Jennifer Moore alarmed the public and an article series started appearing regularly in the New York Post.[5] Another Post columnist, Andrea Peyser, saw a pattern to the three murders and had written the following, linking St. Guillen, Moore and Petro-Nixon together:[6]

"It's open season on young girls. An 18-year-old was found murdered this week in Jersey, allegedly by a man who took her from Manhattan after a night of underage clubbing. In February, graduate student Imette St. Guillen was taken from a SoHo bar and killed, allegedly by the bouncer.[6]
But the case of Chanel Petro-Nixon stands out for three reasons: She went missing in broad daylight, blocks from her house -- not at night, coming out of a bar."[6]

The murder case of Petro-Nixon has yet to be solved and thus far no new stories on her case have been forthcoming.

Gun shootings, bouncers, fake I.D's, Sean Bell

Some of the articles mentioned accounts of gun-shooting violence. Incidents involving bouncers such as Stephen Sakei[3][4] who shot bar patrons with a gun at Opus 22. Sakai was later convicted and sentenced to 90 years in prison.[7] Articles appeared, discussing fake I.D. use, alcoholic drinking among underage teenagers, and discussion of New York City nightlife in general. In November 2006 the Sean Bell shooting case involving undercover police officers occurred. These and other incidents were reported as occurring in bars and nightclubs[8] and continued during 2007.

A 17-year-old honor student named Nyasia Pryear-Yard was shot to death while attending a Teen Party at a Brooklyn nightclub named Elks Plaza Club.[9] A suspected gang member which investigators believe may belong to either the Bloods or the Crips, had brought a weapon past security.[9] The family called for stricter safeguards for late-night parties which in this case was geared for teenagers.[9]

Legislations and legal actions

Legislative actions were initiated mostly by New York City Council, and measures were discussed and taken on the following issues.

Initial 3-point plan

One of the first measures to come was a 3-Point plan proposed by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in her August 8, 2006 memorandum.[10] She later followed up with another memorandum calling for additional safety and mention of an upcoming Summit Meeting. [11] The points mentioned included:

  • 1. Curbing underage drinking[11]
  • 2. Improving club safety[11]
  • 3. Increasing street and transportation safety[11]

Nightlife Summit and other hearings

In a Post article, mention was made of Senator Nicholas Spano scheduling a hearing for September 7 of 2006 to discuss existing liquor laws and how they were being enforced. Mention was made of St. Guillen and Moore in the short article.[12]

In another article, which was part of the continuing Post series "Wasteland", it was reported that a "Nightlife Summit" was held in St. Guillen's alma mater, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Attendees included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who had organized the summit; Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; John Feinblatt, Mayor Bloomberg's criminal-justice coordinator; David Rabin, president of the New York Nightlife Association and co-owner of Lotus; Nightlife Association founder, Andrew Raseij; and various club owners among others. The following points were made:[13]

  • The participants agreed that the police must help nightclub owners keep the peace
  • Better regulation is needed of the $10 billion-a-year industry.
  • A new city office dedicated to the regulation might be created.
  • Club owners desired the police to provide a "paid-detail"--hire off-duty cops to patrol the area outside of their bars.[13]

Ray Kelly against the idea

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was against the idea of using off-duty police because, as he had said, it was illegal and would breed corruption between cops and bar owners. Another opponent to this recommendation, John Feinblatt, Mayor Bloomberg's criminal-justice coordinator said that "It violates the law". David Rabin, president of the New York Nightlife Association indicated that it "doesn't have to be paid detail. Call it what you want. Cooperative policing. It doesn't matter. We need to be able to call the police without fear that it will result (in) a disorderly-premise ticket." Rabin had said.[13]

Club owners also wanted Bloomberg to create an "Office of Nightclub Affairs," similar to the Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, that would operate as a liaison between the industry and government. "The nightlife industry brings in about $10 billion a year, twice that of the film industry." said Andrew Raseij. It was mentioned that approximately 65 million people visit New York City bars and clubs each year, and that it is one of the most important facets to New York City life.[13]

Both sides of the discussions agreed that more action was needed to curb underage drinking, including the elimination of fake ID's, and possibly raising the age limit of young people allowed to enter a bar or club from 16 to 18 or 21.[13]

'Silent' campaign and smoking

There was a discussion about creating a campaign to remind clubgoers to keep quiet when leaving bars and to call the police if there is a safety issue. Some bar owners also complained that the smoking ban made it more difficult to keep the streets quiet at night. While no decisions were made at the summit, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she was encouraged, and made these various remarks:

"I know that we can make nightlife safer in the city of New York. We are not interested in putting the nightlife industry out of business in the city. In fact, when I met with Imette St. Guillen's mother, she made a point of the fact that that is not what she wants."[13]

New York City Council legislation

On Wednesday, the council introduced four pieces of legislation to help combat these problems which included the requiring of ID scanners, security cameras and independent monitors to oversee problem establishments.

The council had passed "Imette's Law," which required stronger background checks for bouncers.

List point captions in the above article were as follows:

  • Create a city Office of Nightlife Affairs.
  • Find ways to get more cops to patrol outside clubs and bars.
  • Combat underage drinking and the use of fake IDs.
  • Foster better relationship among club owners, the NYPD and the New York State Liquor Authority
  • Raise age limit for admittance into a club or bar from 16 to 18 or 21.
  • Develop a public-awareness campaign urging patrons to be safe at night.
  • Examine zoning laws to help neighborhoods that are flooded with clubs and bars.

Post-Nightlife Summit: underage drinking - an 'unrelated' legacy

While St. Guillen's murder initially brought nightlife to the public's attention, the further-related murder of a younger student, 19-year-old Jennifer Moore, presented with even more focus the problems of New York City's nightlife. Issues brought to the forefront of public thinking in that case were underage drinking and fake identification cards being obtained by teenagers illegally to obtain access to bars. The following was reported in a small article in the Friday, December 29, 2006 edition of the New York Daily News titled "Close clubs to under-18s, sez Quinn":

"Night clubs should crack down on underage drinkers and creeps who prey on clubgoers by barring anyone under 18 from entering their doors and using cameras to beef up security, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said yesterday.

Quinn stopped short of saying that teen clubgoers caught using fake IDs should be stripped of their driving privileges. She said:

"It's an idea. I'm sure that will get fleshed out. Today I'm supporting the recommendations that are in this report, and that is not in this report."

Quinn further said that Council members wanted legislation to target sellers of fake IDs.

The summit between police, Council members and club owners was called after several young people were murdered after spending time in a club.
A lawyer representing the family of Imette St. Guillen, a young woman kidnapped, raped and murdered after drinking in the early-morning hours at a SoHo bar, said they were encouraged by the recommendations. Rosemary Arnold said that the St. Guillen family understood what makes New York City unique: a fantastic nightlife. Robert Bookman, a lawyer for the nightlife association, said his group didn't agree with parts of the report but was glad club owners were meeting with lawmakers and police officials."

Imette's Law

On March 14, 2007, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had signed “'Imette’s Law'” - a legislation named after St. Guillen that would make it mandatory for nightclub and bar owners to conduct criminal background checks on bouncers and to set up security video cameras outside the establishment. This law was proposed by Boston City Councilar Michael Flaherty and was passed unanimously.[14]

Imette's Law was also enacted in New York State.[15]

New guideline book including a 58-point security plan

A new guideline booklet "NYPD and Nightlife Association Announce “Best Practices”" [16] was unveiled on Thursday, October 18, 2007. This voluntary rule book included a 58-point security plan drafted in part by the New York Nightlife Association, was further recommended by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Security measures included cameras outside of nightclub bathrooms, a trained security guard for every 75 patrons and weapons searches for everyone, including celebrities entering the clubs. Mention was made in the news reports of St. Guillen and Moore.[17][18][19] Daily News columnist David Rubin wrote:

"It used to be that if five huge, drunk guys were denied entry to your club, and we called police, the cops would clean up the situation, but the club would still get a ticket for disorderly presence"... A supervisor will now decide whether to issue such a summons, and a single incident won't result in a ticket, Kelly said. Disorderly summonses can cost a club its state liquor license or its city cabaret license. "Now, there is no penalty for calling the police," said Rubin.

On November 14, 2007, it was reported that "Local bar staff are re-evaluating their operating procedure..." in regards to City Council and Police recommendations.[20]

NYPD Club Enforcement Initiative and other police investigations

The Club Enforcement Initiative was created by the NYPD in response to what it referred to as "a series of high-profile and violent crimes against people who visited city nightclubs this year", mentioning the July 27 rape and murder of Jennifer Moore. One article discussed the dangers of police work and undercover investigations.[21] Bloomberg had met with Commissioner Kelly and community leaders to discuss how undercover police had shot Sean Bell and two of his friends as they had celebrated his last night as a bachelor outside of the Kalua Cabaret strip club in Queens, N.Y.[22] Bell, who was unarmed, was set to marry his high-school sweetheart and the mother of his two young daughters later that day.[22]

The Club Enforcement Initiative was later mentioned in an article discussing the impact and changes in nightlife, and discussed the death of Bell, along with mention of St. Guillen and Moore.[23]

It was reported that Chelsea residents were grateful for the increased police presence.[24]

The Club Enforcement Unit also tried to close another club named Stereo, after a patron was shot; and mention was made that "Police alleged that (clubs) Stereo, Crobar, Home and Sol were serving alcohol to minors and failing to prevent drug abuse and fights".[25]

ID scanners

In August 2006, the New York City Council started initiatives to correct the problems highlighted by the deaths of Moore and St. Guillen.[26][27] There was also discussions about electronic I.D. scanners, where Quinn was quoted as saying "If you don't have these machines, you're not getting a (liquor) license. If you have a license and you don't have the machines, we're going to take your license away."[28]

Chelsea Nightclubs - New York City

Teenagers attending nightclubs, liquor licensing and drunkenness

New York Post articles had focused on 16-year-olds attending nightclubs, specifically in the Chelsea District.[29] The articles discussed how easy it was for them to obtain fake I.D. cards.[29] There were discussions with some bar owners on the problems of verifying the legitimacy of the I.D. card as, the cards were very convincing in appearance, and the problem of underage drinking. ID Scanners were also considered in another newspaper's article.[29]

Chelsea Nightclub articles first appeared with a New York Times article, citing it as a "playground" but one with dangers such as drunk young women leaving clubs at early hours in the morning[30]

Senator Nicholas Spano had scheduled a hearing on September 7, 2006 to discuss the existing liquor laws and how these laws were being enforced.[31] Mention in the article was made of both Moore and St. Guillen.[31] Spano discussed the Chelsea nightlife areas and liquor laws, focusing on underage drinkers.[31]

In September 2006, the Nightlife Summit was discussed on one website catering to nightlife,[32] and the City Council's own website.[27]

Teenage/underage drinking

The New York Post started a series of continuing articles with the title: "Wasteland".[5] The newspaper's front page featured two photographs: one of Jennifer Moore, and another photograph showing a young teenage girl lying drunk on the sidewalk, with discussion on how common this occurrence was.[5] The front page mentioned that one city block in particular had 5,000 young people attending it every weekend night.[5]

Councilwoman Melinda Katz discussed the issue of underage drinking in a Post article where she was seeking to change the minimum age for entry into bars from 16 to 18-years-old.[33] Ron Bookman, who represented the New York Nightlife Association, accused Katz of 'grandstanding' and predicted that her legislation would never get beyond the draft stage.[33] Bookman wanted all the legislators to attend the upcoming summit hearing in September, 2006.[33] He disagreed with the report's recommendations and felt that officials would use the recommendations to unfairly target bars.[34] A further article also discussed underage drinking, mentioning murder victim Jennifer Moore.[35]

Prostitution and stabbing

It was reported that Scores West nightclub, located on West 28th Street, had their liquor license suspended by the SLA for allowing prostitution on their premises.[36] Undercover policemen discovered women selling sex in the various club premises.[36] Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub granted a stay of the State Liquor Authority order pulling the license of the club.[37] Pending an appeal by the SLA, the club can continue to serve alcohol.[37]

A man was stabbed repeatedly by several women during a violent confrontation near the Vesta Nightclub on Friday, March 21, 2008.[38] The club is located on 29th Street and Eighth Avenue, and it was reported that possibly 30 people were involved.[38] The victim was sent to St. Vincent's Hospital and was reported to be in critical condition.[38]

A missing 25-year-old young woman feared dead

Police are currently searching for the whereabouts of Laura Garza, a 25 year-old who has been missing since Wednesday, December 3, 2008. She was reportedly last seen leaving the a nightclub named club Marquee at approximately 4:00 a.m. with a man named Michael Mele. Mele is said to be a 23-year-old registered sex offender, accordingly to a law enforcement source.[39] Garza was compared in the article to Jennifer Moore, and in the print edition also to Imette St. Guillen.[39] Unfortunately, the remains of Garza's body have been found by the Police.[40]

Fake I.D. card abuse reported in the media

Fake I.D. cards had been discussed in connection with Moore and her access to clubs even before her death.[41] After Moore's death, The New York Post started a series of continuing articles titled 'Wasteland' beginning with the Sunday, July 3, 2006 edition.[41] That initial article commented on Moore's death having little effect on teenager's behavior, the view of teenagers seeing the clubs as "cool", provocative clothing being worn by young women and how that enhances a club's reputation, possible employment in a club and the attraction of the Chelsea nightlife in general.[41]

In 2007, The Post, continuing its series of Wasteland articles, reported that NYPD were focusing on fake ID use, arresting teenagers in the Chelsea district and had padlocked Club Crobar, Pink Elephant and Club Sol for numerous drug violations.[42]

Columnist Jeffrey Page in The Bergen Record, which is published in Moore's 'hometown' state, had the following to say about teenagers getting fake ID's:

"It's not that kids have never before tried to finesse their way past the bouncers at New York's downtown clubs for a night of fun and drink. It's been done a million times and all it took was borrowed credentials -- or a forged license -- in the wink-and-nod nighttown of Chelsea, the West Village and Tribeca."[43]

He then mentioned Jennifer Moore later on in the same article.[43]

In 2007, the NYPD was backing laws proposed by the City Council, regarding expanded powers. The NYPD wanted the City Council to give them expanded powers under the Nuisance Abatement Law which would enable them to close businesses where violent crimes had been committed, as well as businesses that sell fake ID's.[44]

Alcohol consumption

As of October 15, 2007, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was backing a state lawmaker's proposal to "yank alcohol and lottery licenses from stores and bars that let kids with fake IDs buy booze".[45] In March 2007, more legislation to enforce security, and prevent the misuse of I.D. cards was being considered, and Mayor Bloomberg indicated that he would sign these bills.[46]

DMV and fake IDs

Continuing its Wasteland series, The New York Post further discussed fake IDs and the ease of obtaining them from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.[5] The article documented the ease in obtaining such ID's, and how Long Island state Senator Charles Fuschillo Jr., an anti-ID-theft crusader was caught unaware of this fact.[5] The Senator had stated, concerning the DMV website, that 'If it's that easy to get someone's identification', (the site) 'should be shut down'.[5] A DMV spokesman said there was no plan to stop the program or to make it more secure.[5] The spokesman, Ken Brown, further stated, 'We have to provide the ability to get a duplicate license to the motoring public' and that 'It's illegal to have more than one driver's license'."[5]

Required buying of liquor

Democratic Queens Councilwoman, Melinda Katz, started drafting legislation on drinking, outlawing the practice of nightclubs that required patrons to purchase bottles of alcohol to guarantee seating. Eight out of 12 clubs in and around Chelsea surveyed by Katz's staff imposed the "bottle service" requirement. One of those was the club where Jennifer Moore had last been seen.[47]


The issue of bouncers was discussed in the Tuesday, August 8, 2006 edition of the Bergen Record by Jeffrey Page, who wrote how Jennifer Moore had been 'failed' by many people, and he then mentioned bouncers, bartenders and cab drivers.[48]

Further discussed was the potentially abusive power that bouncers can wield in a bar establishment. This was highlighted by St. Guillen's murder. Another discussion centered on bouncer Stephen Sakai, who was allegedly using a firearm to shoot people.[49] Sakai, as was previously mentioned, was sentenced.[7]

On November 14, 2007 it was reported that "Local bar staff are re-evaluating their operating procedure..." in regards to City Council and Police recommendations.[20]

A College bar scene - Columbia University

The online edition of the Columbia Spectator had an article mentioning two bars: Radio Perfecto, and Village Pourhouse.[50] The article mentioned the continuously changing Columbia bar scene, with the former-mentioned bar closing while the latter bar opened.[50] Mention was made of I.D inspection, security being tightened by bouncers going through a certification process, and the almost 3-year murder of Imette St. Guillen.[50] Mention was made of trying to balance students and the local crowds of people, as well as neighborhood residents.[50]

Update to NYPD Safety Manual mentioning Terrorism

Recently, in September of 2011, the NYPD Nightlife Association updated their Safety Manual Handbook to "to include a section on counterterrorism, after several bars and clubs around the globe were targeted by terrorists".[51] To further quote the article:

–"New York Nightlife Association partnered with the NYPD after the deaths of Imette St. Guillen and Jennifer Moore, who were killed in separate incidents after a night out in city clubs."[51]

California: San Francisco

The Entertainment Commission had a hearing on January 15, 2008 at City Hall and their discussion and findings are at this reference:[52]

Louisiana: A "58-point program of best practices"

The city of Shreveport, Louisiana is also considering the 58-point plan. Mention was again made of St. Guillen and Moore.[53]

Ohio Nightlife: 'Kid Clubs' and 'Church Clubs'

An Ohio newspaper 'picked-up' on the Post's 'wasteland' title and discussed Baltimore's teen nightlife.[54] Language comments such as "There's nothing to do" and "We're just hanging out" were given by a number of teens quoted in the article.[54] In one teen-hangout named "Generation Xtremes", the article mentioned that anyone entering had to be under 21 for access.[54] The article further discussed one program for teenagers, started by "local child-advocacy organizations" and "members of Mission Baltimore" called a "Kidz Nite Inn".[54]

Oklahoma, Tulsa

Oklahoma City councilman Skip Kelly, seeking to curb club violence, wants the city of Tulsa to pass an abatement law letting police focus more on nightclubs with various violations.[55] This move was after the shooting of 19-year-old Kascey McClelland at Club Zax.[55] It was reported that police have little clues in the shooting.[55] McClelland died within a week of the six bullet shooting, which occurred in the club's parking lot.[56]

It was also reported that in 2006 that police investigated six shootings, and in 2008 responded to about 700 calls at six of the city's nightclubs.[55] The article stated that "Law enforcement officers blame the violence on youthful immaturity, alcohol, a growing gang problem or on the number of guns on the street."[55]

Kelly indicated that the city's nuisance and abatement ordinance, which was originally designed to control drug use and prostitution will be revised to include violence, loitering and underage drinking.[57] He said:

"We are looking at some language that would give full notice to these club owners, and give police and council stronger laws that they can act on; We are looking at something that would withstand any constitutional challenges.”[57]

In discussing the violence in these clubs, Kelly said:

"We are talking about saving children's lives along with the adults. If the owners say it's a problem in the parking lot we need to hold someone accountable. ... We want accountability for these proprietors. We will withdraw their application or revoke their license.”[57]

There was discussion of existing fire codes, overcrowding in the clubs and past murders.[57]


A judge in Richmond, Judge Melvin R. Hughes Jr., refused to halt liquor sales in Cotton Club nightclub, a club that had been allegedly linked to gun shootings and violence.[58] It was indicated by the judge's ruling, however, that the city failed to prove a link to the violence and the business.[58] The police indicated that seven people had either been shot, stabbed or beaten in the vicinity of the club, although no one had been killed.[58] It was reported that part of the Cotton Club would be closed but the restaurant and lounge portion that was downstairs would remain open.[58] Fourth Precinct Commander, John Hall said he was disappointed with the judge's decision and said that the department wanted improvements.[58] Officer schedules would be changed for additional support on weekend nights.[58] It was also reported that neighbors and the Downtown Neighborhood Association were also concerned.[58]


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  57. ^ a b c d "How OKC is reacting to violence". March 26, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  58. ^ a b c d e f g "Nightclub can still serve alcohol: Judge: City failed to prove link between Cotton Club, violence". Richmond Times Dispatch, TMC.NET NEWS. February 2, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 

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