So, Are Lap Dances Tax Exempt? We Have A Ruling…
Remember last month when the owner of the Night Moves strip club in Albany tried to get out of a $125k tax bill claiming that the dancing was tax exempt under NY State Law? Well the court has ruled. This one went all the way to the tippy-top of New York’s highest court and very well may head to the U.S. Supreme court as the ruling was darn near divided down the middle as the seven justices voted 4-3 opposed to the club owner’s lawsuit.
Lap dances are taxable because they don’t promote culture in a community the way ballet or other artistic endeavors do… There’s no distinction in state law between “highbrow dance and lowbrow dance,” so the case raises ‘significant constitutional problems… The club has failed to prove it qualifies for the exemption for “dramatic or musical arts performances” that was adopted by the Legislature “with the evident purpose of promoting cultural and artistic performances in local communities… If ice shows with intricately choreographed ice-dancing routines to music haven’t been regarded by lawmakers as qualifying, then it was “surely … not irrational” for the tribunal “to conclude that a club presenting performances by women gyrating on a pole to music, however artistic or athletic their practiced moves are, was also not a qualifying performance entitled to exempt status.”"
Here’s some comments from the three judges who voted in favor of the club owner:
The law defines a “dramatic or musical arts admission charge” for “a live dramatic, choreographic or musical performance… Choreography means dance, and clearly the women at Nite Moves dance. The majority implies that since the Legislature did not exclude from the entertainment tax other lowbrow forms of entertainment, such as baseball games and animal acts … it would not have wanted to exclude pole dancing; but the issue is not what the Legislature would have wanted to do, but what it did,”
The club owner isn’t going to sit still on that ruling and we’ll see where this dispute ultimately ends up. But, you know me and letter-of-the-law versus the heart of the matter, so you can guess how I feel but I’m more curious what you think…