The "cabaret controversy" continues in the City of Albany, this time with a rowdy protest and a 'speak out' at the Albany Common Council meeting.
At issue is whether to let amplified music play after midnight Sunday through Thursday, and after 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Bar owners and entertainers say they're furious over some new time restrictions, some even say the new Cabaret Laws could put them out of business.
So, on Monday night D.J.'s, karaoke players, bar owners and even an attorney each used their five minutes on the Common Council floor to voice opposition to the time restrictions and other restrictions the Cabaret Law imposes.
The entertainers and owners say it makes no sense to not 'let the music play' up until last call, adding that they'll lose thousands of dollars, and be in breach of contract with many of their entertainers as a result.
Shawn Gillie is a popular Capital Region D.J.
In front of the Common Council he said, "It's going to hurt the liquor sales reps the distributors, it's going to hurt the people who cook, it's going to hurt bands, karaoke, D.J.'s, comedy shows, I mean, this law just cannot stay the way it is."
Earlier on Monday, the same group held a protest in a city park.
Alvin Peters is one of many area entertainers who showed up at the rally.
Peters is the personality behind A-Man Karaoke.
He said, "The bars are open until 4 a.m. A lot of people don't come out until eleven or twelve o'clock. And if you work the three to eleven shift, you're coming out at 11 o'clock. Not everyone works nine to five in this town you know."
Ralph Spillenger owns the Bayou Café on Pearl Street.
He said, "Things are so bad down there, we need every hour of business we can get. It's not even as much about the bars as it is about the bands, so I'm down here to support them."
The attorney for Waterworks on Central Avenue says the new Cabaret Licensing Law rules are illegal because they can be applied differently from venue to venue, force bar owners to breach contracts with entertainers, and the licenses can be arbitrarily revoked for any reason, or no reason at all.
From the podium at City Hall, lawyer Stephen DeNigris said, "At this point, unless we can get some relief from the council this evening, then I'm going to have to go to court to stop the enforcement of this ordinance."
But the City's Division of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance Director (Code Enforcement Attorney) Jeffery Jamison assured FOX23 News the new Cabaret Law rules aren't yet being enforced.
When asked when they would be enforced, Jamison said, "I would say that when we go through all the applications and review them and issue, at that point, then we'll start enforcing it."
When asked one more time to assure concerned bar owners that the City is not fining or shutting venues down for being in violation of the new Cabaret rules, Jamison said, "Right now, I am not enforcing it, meaning that we're not going to go out…(looking for violations) if there are pending applications. And we still have another round or two of pending applications."
But the attorney for Waterworks, DeNigris, says he still needs that assurance in writing, and if he doesn't get it soon, plans to take the matter all the way to the New York State Supreme Court.
When asked 'what he thought' of Jamison's pledge to 'not enforce' the new rules for which approximately 25 licenses have already been formally issued, DeNigris said, "I would that say I'd rather have something from the Corporation Council's office who enforces it, rather than (from) Mr. Jamison. I know Mr. Jamison is an attorney, but, you know, unfortunately, I don't believe it until I see it."
John Gonzalez is an Albany resident who says he attended the Common Council meeting on behalf of local 18 to 21-year-olds.
Gonzalez said, "I work six to seven days a week, you know? And I like to have my down time, to just to go out to the bar or club, and just go out dancing, and this new rule is completely, in my opinion, ridiculous. We're grown adults just like everyone else we pay our taxes, we vote."
Referring to the rule as a whole, earlier in the day Jamison said, "We're not trying to be adversarial here. We're trying to balance everybody's interest; the bar owners, the restaurants, the people in the neighborhood."
The Albany Common Council was the legislative body within the city of Albany that originally approved the installation of the Cabaret Law Licensing rules.
On Monday, the Council did listen to complaints, but made no determination on the matter.
But on Friday, Albany Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin told FOX23 News she was shocked to hear that the final version of the permits featured such drastic changes.
McLaughlin says it was a commission of police, fire, and code officials who added the specific time restrictions and age limit stipulations.
She said, "The police department, the fire department, the codes department, they're looking at this all from a public safety issue, and they have made 2 a.m. the bewitching hour for at which all music stops. The people who are elected to make this kind of policy should have the opportunity to do that, and not just have it shoved down their throats."
McLaughlin said the legislation she signed-off on did not include a provision about a specific time restriction for amplified music.
She said, "The council members did not have the opportunity to debate this issue. Never once did we talk about a 2 a.m. curfew for music stopping. It never came up. Had it come up, these individuals, the club owners right now, would have been coming to see us then, and we could have (worked it out) the whole issue then."
McLaughlin said she was angry to hear about the surprise changes, and added that she was eager to review the matter with her Common Council colleagues.
The Common Council President also said she was hoping to begin an open conversation with bar owners, entertainers and city police, fire, and code officials soon, to come up with some type of compromise.
"We want to sit with the council members and discuss how we're going to move forward, we'll have to have an open discussion with council members, and the commission to figure it out," she said.
When asked what the City had to say to McLaughlin, and other members of the Common Council who are said to be 'so surprised' by the time restrictions, Jamison, the City Code Enforcement Attorney said, "I would say that the legislation provides that we will create rules and regulations, and that the City Clerk, the Corporation Council, this office, police, fire, all have the power to have rules and regulations put in place so that we can do the proper thing, and enforce it, and look at it on a case by case basis."
Jamison said he does believe that the new restrictions are 'reasonable.'
The Code Enforcement Attorney for the City suggests, from here on out, that any Cabaret License applicant state their reason(s) for potentially being exempt from the time or age restrictions right along with the application itself.
Jamison further recommended that any bar or club owner who has already received the license, but take issue with it, file and appeal with the City's Board of Zoning Appeals.
But Attorney DeNigris said that he has already filed such a petition with the Board of Zoning Appeals, and complained that, due to a backlog, the earliest hearing he could book was on September 27th.
DeNigris said, "By then, my client could already be out of business."