Burlesque dancer Sally Rand challenged the refusal to issue her a cabaret card, which was refused based on her alleged scanty attire. A judge overturned the decision as an "arbitrary and an unjustified act". The judge noted that the cabaret regulations take effect only after a card had been issued to a performer and warned Rand that her privileges could be revoked if she did not follow regulations. J. J. Johnson challenged the withholding of his card at the New York State Supreme Court in May of 1959, and won the issue of a valid card.
In 1960, Lord Buckley died soon after his card was seized under mysterious circumstances. The ensuing scandal led to the abolition of the cabaret card system. Following the seizure of Buckley's card, Harold L. Humes convened in George Plimpton's apartment a "Citizens' Emergency Committee" which included Norman Mailer, David Amram, and Norman Podhoretz. Humes and Maxwell T. Cohen, Buckley's lawyer, confronted Police Commissioner Stephen Kennedy at a raucous hearing. In January 1961, Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. announced that control of the cabaret card system would be removed from the New York City Police Department. The system was abolished in its entirety in 1967, with the New York City Council voting 35-1 to eliminate the required cards. The Council's discussion of the issue included the reading of a message from Frank Sinatra, who would not perform in New York City and had refused to apply for a cabaret card, citing the application and investigation process as "demeaning".