NYC Movie Theaters Could Face Fines For Bed Bug Laxity

By Jake Offenhartz

An unfortunate but persistent fact about movie-going in New York is that you might get gnawed by bed bugs. While it's true this can happen basically anywhere in this city, it does seem that the risk is heightened in a dark room full of cushy fabric seats on which multiple strangers sit for hours at a time each day. This is a bummer! No one who shells out $14 for a ticket to, say, Jeepers Creepers 3: The Creeper Walks Among Us, should have to worry about real bloodsucking pests crawling up the carpet and going to town on their neck.

Now, a City Councilmember is hoping legislation can help boot the unwelcome critters from the movies. A new bill introduced this week by Councilman Mark Levine would require theaters to certify on an annual basis that their seats have been inspected and deemed free of bed bugs. Private inspectors would handle the examinations, while the Department of Consumer Affairs would be responsible for oversight.

"New Yorkers shouldn’t have to worry about what might be lurking in the seats of a movie theater," Levine, who also serves as the Council Health Chair, told Gothamist. "This bill is a simple accountability measure that will ensure our city’s movie theaters are pest free."

He added, “Anyone who has ever had to suffer through a bed bug infestation in their homes knows the tremendous financial and emotional toll it can take." Indeed.

A spokesperson for Levine's office emphasized that their objective wasn't to fear-monger, but rather to reasonably address the outbreaks that seem to happen just about every year. We've previously noted several reports of serious bed bug infestations (and also, rats) at the AMC Empire 25 multiplex in Times Square. Bed bugs have also been spotted at the Pavilion movie theater in Park Slope and at the Sheepshead Bay United Artists movie theater.

It’s unclear at this point if there will be penalties for repeat offenders under the legislation, but theaters that don’t certify that they’re free of bed bugs would be forced to pay $1,000.

In other positive news out of the bed bug accountability world, a recent analysis found that the number of bed bug violations issued to landlords by the Department of Housing and Preservation has dropped by 28 percent in the last five years, which may point to the success of recent legislation forcing landlords to take tenant complaints seriously.

Do we finally have these infernal suckers on the run? Probably not.

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