The Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, which regulates all entertainment licenses in Boston from the use of televisions to rock concerts, has been cracking down on unlicensed dancing in bars in recent months. Under Massachusetts law, any club, restaurant or other establishment must obtain a license to allow its patrons to dance on its premises. M.G.L.A. 140 § 183A. Since 2010, twenty-four violations of this law have been punished at eighteen different establishments, and the penalties have been harsh in some cases.
One such establishment had its first-floor dancing license suspended for two days after patrons were seen dancing on the third-floor. Another establishment’s entertainment license was suspended for a week due to what the Board considered “dirty dancing” styled conduct. One bar recently had its entertainment license suspended for one day because patrons were seen dancing at a karaoke night event.
These penalties are significant in contrast to those issued for violations from what seems like more detrimental behavior. In 2010, for example, an establishment with prior violations was only placed on probation after a man was killed from a glass bottle thrown during a fight. Patricia Malone, director of the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, spoke in regard to unlicensed dancing, stating, “nine times out of ten I give a warning…but there has to be some kind of enforcement and compliance with the rules.” Licensed establishments should therefore be wary of its patrons “cutting a rug” when its entertainment license specifically does not authorize such activity.