Having been in the local swing dance scene since 1991, I've been able to check out a fair number of swing dance opportunities in and around the Greater Boston area. Unfortunately, I've also been around when we've lost some of these dancing venues. For instance, the Winikers used to play from 8 to 9 pm at Zanzibar's in Boston on Saturdays before the disco crowd came in. The Veronique Ballroom used to offer swing dancing to a live band every Thursday night. At some point, the Bay Tower Room asked to be de-listed from the BSDS and DanceNet calendars. How many of us used to go swing dancing at the JukeBox with all the free tickets (100 at a time)?
What do all of these places have in common? They're commercial establishments (meaning, they're out to make money!) and they depended on getting enough cash flow through the bar to play for the live music.
What's the problem? Dancers don't drink!. I'll be the last person who will advocate dancing while drinking. I've tried doing a spin/turn at the Bay Tower Room years ago after half a glass of wine; it wasn't pretty. :-) Dancers are more likely to drink water more than anything else. Many partners don't like "alcohol breath".
The need for the clubs to make money and the desire for the dancers to dance to live music should not be mutually exclusive, but this always appears to be the issue when a dance venue closes down and it doesn't have to be the case. For example, Johnny D's in Somerville has been offering live music every Monday night for years now and seems to appreciate the swing dancers. On the other hand, the owner (or manager) of the Indian Meadows Country Club in Westboro just got into an argument with a dancer (the sister of a prominent dance teacher) over the right of the club to restrict outside beverages and the right of the dancer to bring in their own water. As a result of that argument, the manager of the country club declared that there would be no more swing dancing there; it remains to be seen if this situation can be salvaged. (Note: The swing dances moved elsewhere.)
If a commercial club offers swing dancing to live music, you should take the opportunity to visit that place and use the dance floor. I also suggest, at the same time, that you remember that the club needs to make money on the event; the cover charge may or may not pay for the band. Buy at least one drink at the bar; Domenic Valarioti, band leader of The Swing Out Big Band, suggests that you tell the bartender to "go easy on the booze" if you don't like to drink much. I tend to order at least a wine cooler because it has enough alcohol to satisfy the bar and justify a tip while being liquid enough to replace the water I sweated away. Tipping for water is always nice because they're going through the trouble to fulfill your request for water and the bartender might not care as long as he/she is making money.
Dancing to live music is always better than recorded music. We should consider what it would take to encourage more commercial places to offer live dance music. Would it be worth paying for one drink (even soda!) to make it worthwhile for the establishment to hire dance bands?