Court: Sorry, Lap Dances Aren't Art

It was a nice try, but New York strip clubs will have to pay taxes

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Oct 23, 2012 5:11 PM CDT

(Newser) – Lap dances are taxable because they don't promote culture in a community the way ballet or other artistic endeavors do, New York's highest court concluded today in a sharply divided ruling. The court split 4-3, with the dissenting judges saying there's no distinction in state law between "highbrow dance and lowbrow dance." The lawsuit was filed by Nite Moves in suburban Albany, which was arguing that fees for admission to the strip club and for private dances should be exempt from sales taxes.

The court majority said taxes apply to many entertainment venues, such as amusement parks and sporting events. It ruled the club failed to prove it qualifies for the exemption for "dramatic or musical arts performances" that was adopted by the state legislature "with the evident purpose of promoting cultural and artistic performances in local communities." In the dissent, Judge Robert Smith wrote that it was a question of what the law and regulations actually say. The law defines a "dramatic or musical arts admission charge" for "a live dramatic, choreographic or musical performance," he noted. Choreography means dance, and clearly the women at Nite Moves dance, he wrote. His argument fell one vote short, however.

Lap dances aren't art, says a New York court.
Lap dances aren't art, says a New York court.   (Shutterstock)
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