Five of the Dumbest Laws in New York City (Besides the No-Brunch Law)


As news spread this morning that New York’s city council is considering changing the law that prevents sidewalk cafes from opening before noon on Sunday — they can open earlier on other days — we know what went through the minds of many of you: That’s a law, really?

Apparently, city councilman Dan Garodnick has been working for some time on a bill that would change the strange law, which makes us think we’re living in Kansas or someplace else where drinking on a Sunday morning is for some bizarre reason frowned upon.

So that got us thinking, what other crazy laws do we have in this city? After the jump: five of the dumbest, most outdated local laws still on the books.

The No-Dancing Law

In the early 90’s Mayor Giuliani began using an outdated Jazz Age law that prohibited dancing in nightclubs or bars without a cabaret license. The law states that a business must have a cabaret license if, “three or more people are found dancing” in the establishment. Giuliani didn’t have to enforce the law, but he hates it when other people have fun. Despite a Million Mambo March protest and a 2003 repeal attempt the law is still on the books today.

The Fatty-Hamburger Law

Beef connoisseurs may appreciate this law, which makes it illegal for butchers to sell hamburgers that contain more than 30 percent fat. The punishment? Up to thirty days in jail. That’s a pretty hefty punishment for a little bit of extra fat.

The No-Spit Law

Spitting on New York sidewalks is illegal — and gross, hello! We actually like this throwback ordinance. It’s also illegal to litter the sidewalks with dead animals, which would be kinda weird and a little bit creepy. Seriously guys, if you see something, say something!

The No-Mask Law

Members of Anonymous and of Occupy Wall Street learned this one the hard way. A 150-year-old law makes it illegal to wear masks at public gatherings, a throwback to the days of the KKK. At Anonymous protests, we’ve seen some pretty creative ways around this law, with steampunk goggles, etc.

The No-Wine-With-Your-Groceries Law

This one may be the most illogical, annoying, and cynical of them all. Our staff writer Graham Rayman has explained at length how the liquor store lobby spends enough money in Albany to keep you from picking up a bottle of red while you’re grocery shopping for no other reason than to protect its own turf.

Well, soon, you can thumb your nose at liquor stores anyway, get up before noon on Sunday, and go have a cocktail on the sidewalk like you lived in an actual civilized city. Progress!