Hey, Gilroy, so you think you can dance?
According to the new dance ordinance approved by City Council at the regular May 7 meeting, you can. Dance venues are now allowed anywhere in the downtown specific plan area, spanning from Leavesley Road to Luchessa Avenue.
The new ordinance is an answer to complaints from business owners and citizens who said the ordinance was too strict, as well as concerns from council members on the ambiguity of the ordinance’s language.
“We’re not trying to keep people from dancing,” Mayor Al Pinheiro said.
The new ordinance permits up to three large dancing venues in downtown (and is flexible in adding more with just a council vote), but does add some additional requirements on venue owners in areas such as lighting and security.
Formerly, dance venues were restricted to certain areas on the outskirts of downtown.
Dancing venues are now split up into three categories: small, medium and large, each with different, and very specific restrictions.
A small venue is defined as occasional, spontaneous dancing at locations where there is no dance floor, and dancing was not advertised, such as customers at a coffee shop who move a few tables to dance along to live music. This type of dancing is subject to the least regulation.
A medium venue is any place that is a full restaurant but less than 25 percent of the entire public area is a dance floor. This type of venue faces slightly stricter laws, such as lighting requirements and the requirement to serve hot food.
The large venues – such as Desero’s Tequila Town and Cieito Lindo on Monterey Street, are any dance floor greater than 400 square feet, or 25 percent of the public access area. These venues face the strictest regulations, such as proof of adequate bouncer staff, cameras and identification readers, lighting laws and more.
The old ordinance, which bundled the types of venues together rather vaguely, led some people to believe that dancing was illegal in Gilroy, which downtown businesses owners believed did not align with the city’s goal to make downtown an entertainment destination.
Jorge Briones, owner of 9Lives music venue on Monterey Street, said he is glad the new ordinance allows for large dance venues downtown.
“I believe there should be rules and regulations, but the old ordinance was punishing the people who were trying to do things right, not the ones who caused the problem in the first place,” Briones said.
A few weeks ago, Briones said he found a woman dancing at a bar during a concert at 9 Lives, so his staff told her she could dance near the stage if she wanted to.
“She actually said, ‘I didn’t know I could dance in Gilroy.’ As soon as she knew that she was allowed to, she went up front and kept dancing.”
Briones said he hopes through the proper management of dance venues, Gilroy can shed its reputation of being a “dance banned” city.
Police are hesitant about having so many large dance venues downtown, but are also willing to work with businesses to ensure the public is kept safe.
“It’s anticipated that the large dance venues will draw more people to the downtown area, and will likely increase the calls for police service for alcohol violation and assaults,” Police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao said. “But we will work with venues to resolve any potential safety concerns which may arise.”