New York City

NYC Councilman Wants to Spy on Bar Patrons in Order To Stop Sexual Harassment

What happens when social justice and city bureaucracy meet? Everyone loses a little more privacy, and workers and business-owners alike suffer.


Deborah Lowery/Polaris/Newscom

Intent on leaving no space unmoderated by peeping bureaucrats, New York City Councilman Rafael L. Espinal Jr. is advocating for sophisticated surveillance cameras in all nightlife establishments, mandatory sexual-harassment intervention training for their staff, and fines for establishments that don't display signs telling patrons that they're in a "harassment free zone" and "consent is mandatory."

Espinal's proposal would establish all sorts of mandatory digital surveillance of patrons at New York bars, clubs, and restaurants. Per the new rules, businesses would have to install digital video cameras "sufficient [in] number, type, placement, and location to view and record all activity in front of and within 15 feet of either side of each entrance or exit" and these cameras "shall be sufficiently light sensitive and provide sufficient image resolution (supported by additional lighting if necessary) to produce easily discernible images recorded at all times."

Footage obtained must be "indexed by dates and times and preserved for a minimum of 30 days so that they may be made available to the police department and other government agencies acting in furtherance of a criminal investigation or a civil or administrative law enforcement purpose," says the bill, which was discussed by the Council last week.

"We can promote consent and fight sexual harassment through our nightlife venues," tweeted Espinal, who represents Bushwick, Brownsville, Cypress Heights, and nearby areas in Brooklyn, and is also the author of a recent effort to ban plastic straws. "Legislation I introduced working with @houseofyesnyc will do that."

House of Yes is a Bushwick performance venue and event space known for aerial shows, burlesque dancing, fetish parties, and an old-timey-jazz-club meets warehouse-party vibe. Previously, House of Yes teamed up with Espinal to promote a voluntary "consent is mandatory" poster campaign to local businesses on Halloween.

Elected in 2011, Espinal was also instrumental in helping "repeal New York's nearly-century-old cabaret law, which forbid dancing in bars without a cabaret license—a vestige from the anti-speakeasy era, often used by mayor Rudy Giuliani to harass bars that received noise complaints," notes Danielle Wayda at Vice. He helped create the city's first Office of Nightlife last year.

While Espinal may have opposed using city laws to harass establishments for conventionally conservative or prudish reasons, however, he's not opposed to harassing them for the "right" reasons.

Legislation Espinal introduced on October 31 would make the display of "Consent Is Mandatory" posters mandatory, and require bartenders, security guards, waiters, and other staff to go through so-called "bystander intervention training," centered on dealing with harassment among patrons. Per the draft legislation: "every nightlife establishment with five or more employees shall annually conduct a harassment training for all employees employed within the city of New York." Security guards would also be subject to more stringent licensing requirements and checks.

Failure to hang the posters in the right spots or keep adequate records of staff training could mean a $500 fine. Violating surveillance-camera requirements could cost businesses $1,000 per violation.

And of course, making sure folks are complying with the new rules gives cops and regulators pretense to pop by private establishments and check everybody's paperwork.

The legislation itself invokes #MeToo, and Wayda describes Espinal's proposal as a step toward "making nightlife venues and bars zero-tolerance spaces for sexual harassment." But there are already rules against workplace sexual harassment, and against all manner of sexual activity without consent, from the mild to the most severe. These new measures likely won't stop harassment. The poster campaign amounts to a useless, feel-good symbol, the new training will be a time-suck for employees, the new rules open the way for more government harassment of entrepreneurs, and the surveillance requirements will further erode the amount of private space in an already heavily surveilled city.

To get serious about stopping sexual violence and workplace harassment, New York should start by doing something serious about the sexual predators in its own police ranks, keep working on improving the city's response to sexual assault and harassment complaints, and help ensure that hourly workers in bars and restaurants get the same protection and consideration as victims in higher income brackets. Mandatory agitprop from bureaucrats is a waste of money, while more surveillance of bar patrons and monitoring of nightlife workers has the potential for far worse damage.

NEXT: Dallas Taxpayers Are Shelling Out $725,000 to Defend an Ex-Cop Who Shot an Unarmed Teen

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  1. What happens when social justice and city bureaucracy meet?

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading and watching of documentaries on Stalin and Trotsky lately, and from everything I can tell, a lot of death, famine, firing squads, arrests, gulags and terror.

    1. From an article on a Not Safe for Work website:

      Dr. Israel Zinberg’s 1915 book, “Di Geshikhte Fun Literatur By Yidn”, is a historic account of Jewish literature. Published in Vilna before Stalin’s police arrested the author and shipped him to a prison where he died, the nearly completed manuscript was translated into English and published under the tittle “A History of Jewish Literature” in 1978. One chapter in it describes the problems mid-19th Century Jewish writers overcame to produce and distribute scientific publications under in the Tzar’s domain.

      1. “Jewrotica”? Count me Kosher!

        1. (Fran Drescher joke deleted for reasons of taste)

        2. “Jewrotica”

          I don’t even want to know how much Barbara Streisand fanfic is on that site.

        3. But that site is plain vanilla compared to the *Methodist* erotica Web site.

          1. Wesley strode over to Gwyneth as she backed up against the darkened fireplace. He loomed over her and planted his hand on the mantle behind her head.
            She could feel his hot breath on her face as he growled huskily “Mankind is not justified by works, but by faith alone”. She looked straight into his deep blue eyes and retorted “Faith produces inward and outward holiness”.

  2. If we can sacrifice a shit ton of privacy in order to locate the billions of child sex trafficking victims in New York, then I am all for it.

  3. It’s a matter of deputizing the staff at the bar so that the city does not have to spend money paying cops and courts to keep people safe. A Wall Street Journal article explains how relying on private security to do the jobs of cops and courts works:

    As violence proliferates in these societies, the middle class hires protection. In every Spanish-speaking Central American country, the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime finds that private security forces outnumber the police. As for the poor, abandoned by their predatory governments, they often turn for security to gangs and vigilantes, who both protect and extort them.

    1. “gangs and vigilantes, who both protect and extort them”
      How is that different from governments?

  4. NYC Councilman Wants More Graft From Bars.

  5. I wonder if this councilman will also go to gay bars to see what homosexuals are being sexually harassed?

    1. He already goes to those bars. He’s just the one doing the harassing there.

      1. Also a way to get dirt on political enemies.

        “Harrassment free” doesn’t mean free from government harrassment.

  6. Christ, what an asshole.

    1. Why are you introducing yourself?

  7. OT: Anyone seen the recent South Park about Meanbearpig? Looks like they changed their mind and now accept climate change as real.

    1. Absolutely brilliant pair of episodes, but I was really stoned.

    2. Haven’t they pretty much always? The classic “fart-sniffing-Prius-drivers” episode was just as critical of all the rednecks who went out and bought gas-guzzling trucks to spite the hybrid-people as it was of the douchebaggery of the hybrid people. I always assumed they were basically in the same camp as Bailey, but I admittedly haven’t watched South Park in probably 12-15 years.

    3. I never got the sense from the original Manbearpig episode that they didn’t accept it, just that Al Gore was a giant fucking doofus and his solutions to fixing the problem just made everything worse for the four boys. This is further expanded on when he literally nukes our imaginations to stop Manbearpig.

      You know, kinda like Tony.

      *Oh my god you guys, what if Tony is really just Al Gore, trolling us?

      1. what if Tony is really just Al Gore, trolling us?

        Mind. Blown.

    4. No, I’m an adult.

    5. They are dead to me – and anyone else with a brain.

  8. Wait, you can’t sexually harass in bars anymore either?

    1. Nor any less – – – –

  9. How do we know that Councilman Espinal isn’t sexually assaulting women in his home? We should put a camera in there to be sure.

    1. I know of one place they can attach the camera…

  10. Gonna be a lot of five employee bars created – – – – – –

  11. “making nightlife venues and bars zero-tolerance spaces for sexual harassment.” But there are already rules against workplace sexual harassment, and against all manner of sexual activity without consent, from the mild to the most severe.

    This isn’t about workplace sexual harassment. It’s about sexual harassment when you are out in public. If you aren’t grown up enough to tell someone to F-off, or tell the bouncer, then you don’t belong in a bar.

    1. Yeah. If you can’t try to pick somebody up at a bar I gotta fear for the survival of the species.

  12. Holy shit no kidding the scariest story yet .

  13. And yet, Amazon is going to bring 25,000 jobs into that place, just because of a few billion dollars in bribes.
    Time to sell your Amazon stock.

    1. Should have picked Pittsburgh.

  14. Failure to hang the posters in the right spots or keep adequate records of staff training could mean a $500 fine. Violating surveillance-camera requirements could cost businesses $1,000 per violation.

    The real reason for doing this: the potential revenue from fines. When in doubt, follow the money.

  15. “He helped create the city’s first Office of Nightlife last year.”

    The apocalypse is upon us.

  16. all sorts of mandatory digital surveillance of patrons

    “OK, folks, show us your fingers!”

  17. We really are our own worst enemy. So people will stop flirting no one will get laid and the population crashes. Then in order to support the ponzi scheme of government programs forced pregnancy, fertilization, or cloning will be implemented. Its like a utopia forming before our eyes.

    1. No, unlimited immigration will do the trick.

  18. A politician walks into a bar

    He sits down orders 10 whiskeys and starts downing them.

    Bartender says “so hey what is the problem mate?”

    Politician says “I just lost an election.”
    Takes another drink
    “12 years I been in this. Lowered taxes, balanced the budget, built schools and roads”
    Takes another and says “but you fuck ONE goat…”

    1. The goat couldn’t consent. It was just a kid.

      1. ^
        Bada boom

  19. First, FUCK YOU, REASON! Typing right along, your fucking cheapo server jumps the site and the post disappears.
    Did I mention FUCK YOU, REASON? I just want to make it clear that I mean


  20. Attended a business Anniversary Celebration in downtown SF this evening. From a couple of miles south of downtown, the entire skyline was made invisible by the smoke from the wild fires all day, and on the ride down the Embarcadero, the street lights seemed shrouded in fog. That ain’t fog.
    For the last several years, those in the central valley in particular, have been treated to air of a quality that the Celestials in Beijing would find unacceptable, and I don’t blame them. The fires have put far more pollutants and CO^2 into the atmosphere than any of moonbeam’s fantasies of outlawing carbon fuels would ever accomplish, and we can thank moonbeam, his idiot tree-huggers and his D legislature(s) for it.
    Moonbeam/treehuggers more or less outlawed logging; spotted owls and all that shit. When the loggers left, they also took forest management skills with them; the forests were left to return to their pristine, fuel-packed state. Given the demands on the state budget to support the benes (Dills Act, stuff it up your ass, moonbeam), money to manage the forests was every bit as available as money to, oh, maintain infrastructure (Oroville Dam, anyone?) or maybe build some sort of water storage facilities as the population doubled over the last 30 years? Ha and ha!

    1. Cont’d:
      So as a result we get that fucking left-over hippy moonbeam whining about ‘climate change’ and encouraging all of his ‘subjects’ to don a hair-shirt in support of his wonderfulness in ‘saving the world’. For the SEIU?
      But wait! There’s more!
      SF is not alone in nearly outlawing increased housing density as a result of the D-dominated BoS, CC, etc; any whiner can stop any development for years, adding costs as most of you understand. So where do those who cash out of the (distorted) market go on retirement? Why, they move to towns like Paradise, where the cost of housing is reasonable, since that forest behind you hasn’t been cleaned out in the last 50 years.
      Do I have to connect all the dots? Naah; here’s some reality:

      BTW, did I mention FUCK, YOU REASON for simply deleting this post the first time I tried?
      Just in case, FUCK YOU, REASON! I will send a check, and it will be in the amount of $0.00.

      1. Yeah. How dast they delete a rant totally unrelated to the opening post … uh. hmm. Nevermind.

  21. I began to suspect that the normalization of homosexuality and transgenderism were a more stealthy implementation of the space alien plot revealed in Raccoona Sheldon’s “The Screwfly Solution”. This is the third stratagem of the New Improved Screwfly Solution plot to depopulate the the Earth within one generation so the evil space invaders can take over a depopulated Earth without an invasion and war of the worlds. Earth Awake!

    1. Seriously. People used to go to bars seeking sexual harassment. When did that change?

      1. If you don’t want to be sexually harassed at a bar, you don’t need Big Brother Watching You. Just wear gray overalls with a narrow scarlet sash, emblem of the Junior Anti-Sex League, wound several times round your waist, ala Nineteen Eighty-Four fashion. The novel, not the year.

  22. The jails must be running low on young black men post stop and frisk. Can’t have that.

  23. Hasn’t somebody told this fool that if he needs jerk-off material there’s plenty on the internet?

  24. I’ve never met this guy, but I hate him with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns.

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