Knoxville does away with 1960s ‘no dancing and drinking’ law

Local News

The City of Knoxville repealed what some may call an old fashioned law on Tuesday. According to Jesse Mayshark with the city, there was a rule on the books placing restriction on drinking and dancing in the same establishment.   

“This is something we were aware of and it wasn’t enforced a whole lot,” said Mayshark. “It was the kind of thing where if there was a complaint and an officer had to respond somewhere it was a citation that could be given but it was not really done very much.”

This particular ordinance dates back to the 1960s. It read “No beer shall be sold on or consumed on premises upon any part of which dancing is allowed” unless the drinking and dancing areas were separated by a physical barrier. 

Jack Neely with the Knoxville History Project says these laws are common in the United States and are likely a result of the repeal of prohibition in the 1930s. 

“People had institutional memories of the days of saloons and that drinking and dancing sometimes caused problems,” said Neely.

Those problems ranged from the connection between drinking,dancing and brothels to high murder rates. 

“It’s interesting to see in the saloon era how often jealousy caused fights,” said Neely. “Sometimes people would walk into a saloon on the bowery and see someone dancing with the wrong person and shoot them and this was the cause of many murders over Knoxville history.”

As of Tuesday night the city repealed the ordinance which now says “there is no longer any need for a special ‘with dancing’ permit.”

“It just felt kind of needlessly restrictive to say well you can come here and have a good time, you can have a beer and you can dance but you cant do both of those things at the same time,” said Mayshark. “It just made us seem sort of old fashioned, you know.”

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