HILTON, N.Y. (WROC) — Robbie Tennant of ‘Robbie’s Bar & Grill’ says two music companies she’s contracted with, BMI and ASCAP, charge extra dancing fees from her bar throughout the year. It’s something the companies are saying isn’t accurate.

“It ends up being thousands of dollars we have to pay for live music, jukebox playing, or dancing now,” she says.

She says she doesn’t know where the money goes, especially for the apparent dancing charges. “Why are we being charged per occupancy, if one person dances? They’re demanding it, so we have to tell our customers ‘I’m sorry you can’t dance,'” she says.

There are two stipulations in the BMI contract on dancing fees, ‘whether or not’ there’s a dance floor, with a rate per year per occupant of $1.90. Mind you, that contract is from 2019 (Robbie’s has yet to provide the current BMI contract).

Robbie’s has no dance space, so when someone does start to cut a rug, she asks them to stop. But she asks how do the companies even know who is there– or how many may or may not be dancing?

“They must be watching on Facebook or social media, they have to be watching,” she says.

A statement from BMI says they’ve been trying to contact Robbie about her remaining balance owed for five months. They said the contracts do not include charges for dancing.

ASCAP, the other company (current annual fee $531.63 for 2021-22), says Robbie’s is in good standing, and whether customers dance or not, has no impact on the license fee (full statements are below).

Robbie says when she tries to take legal action, she gets shut down. “I believe the judges are bought and paid for, and that’s why we can’t win a case against them,” she says. “They catch it. And they call us. And they say ‘well you have to pay for dancing now,'” she says.

Robbie says she’s not alone. She says this is like a modern-day version of  ‘Footloose’, the Kevin Bacon movie where dancing is banned in a small town. “Everyone put their cameras away, nobody film it, if you want to dance it’s gotta be ‘hush’ quiet in the backroom,” she says.

STATEMENT FROM ASCAP:

Robbie’s is an ASCAP customer in good standing and whether patrons dance or a jukebox is available has no impact on the bar’s annual ASCAP license fee. ASCAP licenses the public performance of its members’ music to help ensure that songwriters can make a living, too, especially when businesses profit from their creative work.  Most bar owners know that music is a big part of what draws customers in and what keeps them there for an enjoyable evening.  

STATEMENT FROM BMI:

While we’ve made several attempts to contact the owner of Robbie’s Bar and Grill, the last time we spoke was in November 2021, and that was to inquire about their remaining balance owed on their BMI license which, so you know, does not include dancing. It’s important to understand that a music license must reflect the full scope of music used by a business. There are several factors that we use to determine the cost, including the size of the establishment, how music is being used (live music, DJ, karaoke, jukebox) and how often music is played. Yes, dancing can also be a part of a license as there is music associated with that. Songwriters entrust their copyrights to BMI and rely on us to ensure that they’re compensated when their music is performed publicly. Most establishments recognize this and choose to feature music because they understand the value that it adds to their business and the ambiance that it creates for their customers.