One of the proposed changes to the city's zoning laws would require businesses such as coffeeshops and restaurants to pay an annual fee of between $300 and $900 to be allowed to host amplified entertainment such as live music performances, open mic nights, stand-up comedy, karaoke, and trivia. This annual fee would represent a significant burden for small businesses and would serve as an obstacle to live entertainment options in a city already bereft of such.
Live music and entertainment are integral to a thriving city. Countless independent musicians, comedians, poets, and karaoke and trivia hosts depend on a vibrant nightlife scene in the region for their livelihood and means of artistic expression. Small venues such as coffeeshops that host open mics and performances by local musicians play an important role in the local music scene. We fear that the already limited opportunities for performers in Albany will only diminish if the Albany Common Council adopts this proposal.
While many of the aspects of the proposed changes seem reasonable, such as attaching permission for amplified entertainment to a business rather than a property, the fee schedule does not. Many small businesses in Albany are already struggling to keep their doors open, and the addition of a new annual expense will be unnecessarily burdensome. This proposed expense threatens not only those businesses, but the artists who perform there, the fans who come from near and far to attend their performances, and the cultural and artistic diversity of Albany.
When asked if this was simply a way for the city to bring in extra revenue, Albany Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin said to a local television station, "It is certainly not about the money at all." We take her at her word and ask that the Albany Common Council therefore reject the proposed fees.
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