Judge Rules that State’s Ban on Live Music is Unconstitutional

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A New York State judge has ruled that the state’s ban on live music at bars and restaurants is unconstitutional.

NYS Supreme Court Justice Frank Sedita ruled against the state’s ban that venues can not advertise or sell tickets to live music events.

Photo by Bryan Lasky

The state had ordered that live music can only be “incidental” and not a draw for the venues, in particular restaurants. This prevented local musicians from performing since they could not promote their shows.

“It means they can advertise that they have musical groups,” Attorney Paul Cambria, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of the Sportsmens Tavern, said. “The state agreed that we could advertise so-called background music, but…our position was that it was an impediment of free speech because it’s content-based. Secondly, we’re already bound by all the safety and capacity regulations, so it doesn’t matter how people come to the establishment.”

According to the ruling, restaurants with live music can now advertise musicians, just like they advertise a daily special. The timing of this heading into the colder months is critical to a market that has been taking hit after hit since the initial pandemic shutdowns in March.

“They still have to follow distancing and stage limitations and sanitization and food service and all the rest of it,” Cambria said.

The state still has the right to appeal Judge Sedita’s ruling.

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