New York City Will Now Allow You to Dance Without a License

IStock
IStock

In New York City, there’s a tricky law on the books that requires any business serving food or drinks to acquire what’s known as a Cabaret License in order to allow customers to dance. The mandate stems from a 1926 policy introduced by then-mayor Jimmy Walker to help curb what some residents believed to be “altogether too much running wild” in the Jazz Age clubs of the era. (It's also possible that the law was meant to prevent interracial coupling.) City officials have regularly enforced the law during the proceeding century, with some clubs even cutting off music—or switching to country—when inspectors arrived unannounced.

Now, it appears the outdated restriction has come to an end. According to The New York Times, Brooklyn councilman Rafael Espinal has introduced a bill expected to pass Tuesday that will forever end any and all comparisons to the 1984 Kevin Bacon film Footloose. The repeal comes on the heels of concerns that the prohibition pushes people into attending "underground" dance clubs that exceed (or ignore) fire department capacity limits.

While Espinal is convinced he has the necessary votes to move forward, several proprietors have attempted to challenge the law over the years. In 2014, bar owner and attorney Andrew Muchmore filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming that the restriction was outdated and obtaining the license was a laborious process. To approve an application, the city’s Department of Consumer affairs has to verify a venue has security cameras and owners have to attend regular board conferences. The cost of the license can range from $300 to $1000, depending on the area’s capacity and, for some unfathomable reason, whether it’s an even or odd year.

Espinal's efforts and anticipated success getting rid of the Cabaret Law will cap 91 years of illicit dancing within the city limits. Just don't get too cozy with your partner: thanks to another antiquated regulation, you can still be fined $25 for flirting.

7 Top-Rated Portable Air Conditioners You Can Buy Right Now

Black + Decker/Amazon
Black + Decker/Amazon

The warmest months of the year are just around the corner (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), and things are about to get hot. To make indoor life feel a little more bearable, we’ve rounded up a list of some of the top-rated portable air conditioners you can buy online right now.

1. SereneLife 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner; $290

SereneLife air conditioner on Amazon.
SereneLife/Amazon

This device—currently the best-selling portable air conditioner on Amazon—is multifunctional, cooling the air while also working as a dehumidifier. Reviewers on Amazon praised this model for how easy it is to set up, but cautioned that it's not meant for large spaces. According to the manufacturer, it's designed to cool down rooms up to 225 square feet, and the most positive reviews came from people using it in their bedroom.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black + Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner and Heater; $417

Black + Decker portable air conditioner
Black+Decker/Amazon

Black + Decker estimates that this combination portable air conditioner and heater can accommodate rooms up to 350 square feet, and it even comes with a convenient timer so you never have to worry about forgetting to turn it off before you leave the house. The setup is easy—the attached exhaust hose fits into most standard windows, and everything you need for installation is included. This model sits around four stars on Amazon, and it was also picked by Wirecutter as one of the best values on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mikikin Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $45

Desk air conditioner on Amazon
Mikikin/Amazon

This miniature portable conditioner, which is Amazon's top-selling new portable air conditioner release, is perfect to put on a desk or end table as you work or watch TV during those sweltering dog days. It's currently at a four-star rating on Amazon, and reviewers recommend filling the water tank with a combination of cool water and ice cubes for the best experience.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Juscool Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $56

Juscool portable air conditioner.
Juscool/Amazon

This tiny air conditioner fan, which touts a 4.6-star rating, is unique because it plugs in with a USB cable, so you can hook it up to a laptop or a wall outlet converter to try out any of its three fan speeds. This won't chill a living room, but it does fit on a nightstand or desk to help cool you down in stuffy rooms or makeshift home offices that weren't designed with summer in mind.

Buy it: Amazon

5. SHINCO 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $320

Shinco portable air conditioner
SHINCO/Amazon

This four-star-rated portable air conditioner is meant for rooms of up to 200 square feet, so think of it for a home office or bedroom. It has two fan speeds, and the included air filter can be rinsed out quickly underneath a faucet. There's also a remote control that lets you adjust the temperature from across the room. This is another one where you'll need a window nearby, but the installation kit and instructions are all included so you won't have to sweat too much over setting it up.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Honeywell MN Series Portable Air Conditioner and Dehumidifier; $400

Honeywell air conditioner on Walmart.
Honeywell/Walmart

Like the other units on this list, Honeywell's portable air conditioner also acts as a dehumidifier or a standard fan when you just want some air to circulate. You can cool a 350-square-foot room with this four-star model, and there are four wheels at the bottom that make moving it from place to place even easier. This one is available on Amazon, too, but Walmart has the lowest price right now.

Buy it: Walmart

7. LG 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $699

LG Portable Air Conditioner.
LG/Home Depot

This one won't come cheap, but it packs the acclaim to back it up. It topped Wirecutter's list of best portable air conditioners and currently has a 4.5-star rating on Home Depot's website, with many of the reviews praising how quiet it is while it's running. It's one of the only models you'll find compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, and it can cool rooms up to 500 square feet. There's also the built-in timer, so you can program it to go on and off whenever you want.

Buy it: Home Depot

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Fierce Facts About Bella Abzug

Bella Abzug in the 1970s.
Bella Abzug in the 1970s.
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

“Larger than life” sums up Bella Abzug, the New York-based Democratic congresswoman who gained notoriety in the 1970s with her big hats and bold feminist voice. Abzug, who died in 1998 at age 77, was recently portrayed by Margo Martindale in the Hulu/FX miniseries Mrs. America (2020), featuring Cate Blanchett as anti-Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) crusader Phyllis Schlafly. Here are some facts about “Battling Bella.”

1. In her youth, Bella Abzug defied the expectations of her Orthodox Jewish upbringing.

Abzug was born in the Bronx on July 24, 1920. The daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants lost her father when she was 13. Flouting Orthodox tradition, she recited prayers for his soul—normally a son’s duty—at their synagogue.

2. Bella Abzug defended a Black man accused of raping a white woman.

Abzug studied labor law at Columbia University, where she edited the Columbia Law Review. While later working for the Civil Rights Congress, she represented Willie McGee, who was charged with raping a housewife in Laurel, Mississippi, in 1945. During three trials with all-white juries, the facts remained unclear. Luminaries like Josephine Baker and Albert Einstein petitioned for clemency. Abzug handled McGee’s final appeal, which fell short, and the truck driver was executed in 1951. Though the appeal failed, a white woman defending a Black man in the Deep South at that time was remarkable in itself.

3. At age 50, Bella Abzug mounted her successful first run for Congress.

Abzug celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
Abzug celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
Equality Now, Flickr // Public Domain

“This woman’s place is in the House ... the House of Representatives.” That slogan propelled Abzug to victory in a Manhattan congressional district in 1970. She served three terms and co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus with Gloria Steinem and Shirley Chisholm. Abzug also fought for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which remains unratified today.

4. Bella Abzug lobbied to get the U.S. out of the Vietnam War.

On her first day in Congress in 1971, Abzug proposed a resolution to pull U.S. troops out of Vietnam. Later that year, the longtime peace activist pressured Richard Nixon’s administration to release the entire classified Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War. Before the war ended in 1975, she visited the region with colleagues and argued against continued U.S. military aid.

5. Bella Abzug appeared on Richard Nixon’s “enemies list.”

When Abzug first met Nixon at a White House reception, she slammed his Vietnam policy, saying, “Your predecessors didn’t do very well, but you’re doing worse.” Chuck Colson, Nixon’s special counsel, put her on an “enemies list” with nearly 600 names. After Watergate, the Republican president was impeached and resigned in 1974.

6. Bella Abzug had a fierce rivalry with fellow Democrat Ed Koch.

Mayor Ed Koch of New York, Congresswoman Bella Abzug (Dem-NY) and President Jimmy Carter during a meeting in 1978.
Koch, Abzug, and President Jimmy Carter during a meeting in 1978.
Schumacher, Karl H.,White House Photographer, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Abzug and Ed Koch co-sponsored the first federal gay rights bill in 1974, but Koch admitted: “Bella and I just disliked one another intensely.” They clashed about Koch’s endorsement of Bess Myerson over Abzug in a 1976 Senate race. In 1977, Koch beat out Abzug to become New York’s mayor.

7. Bella Abzug spearheaded a law enabling married women to get credit cards in their own names.

After Abzug discovered she couldn’t obtain an American Express card unless it bore her husband Martin’s name, she took action. In 1974, a new law banned discrimination against women seeking consumer credit or business loans.

8. In 1977, Bella Abzug chaired the first National Women’s Conference.

Jimmy Carter appointed Abzug to run the landmark conference in Houston, Texas. Vigorously opposed by Phyllis Schlafly, it attracted more than 20,000 delegates from across America, including Maya Angelou, Billie Jean King, and three First Ladies. Sessions focused on the ERA, domestic violence, and education reform, among other issues.

9. After leaving office, Bella Abzug advocated for women’s rights worldwide.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Abzug agitated for reproductive rights and environmental conservation at United Nations conferences from Nairobi to Rio. The co-founder of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) spoke at the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing, where Hillary Clinton stated, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

10. From the stage to the screen, Bella Abzug’s legacy is celebrated today.

Beyond Mrs. America, options abound. Harvey Fierstein performed a one-person off-Broadway show called Bella Bella in 2019. Bette Midler played Abzug in the 2020 film The Glorias. Jeff L. Lieberman’s documentary Bella!, including interviews with Barbra Streisand and Nancy Pelosi, will premiere in either 2020 or 2021.