Houston Passes $5/Person Strip Club Fee

Life is about to get slightly more expensive for strip club patrons in Houston. The city council in the Texas town have voted 14-1 to pass a $5-per-customer fee on strip clubs.

The money raised from the fee — a “pole tax,” if you will — is slated to go to help clear the city’s massive backlog of unprocessed rape kits.

“We have to do something to help the 4,000-plus women, children and men who have been sexually assaulted,” said the law’s sponsor. “I think we’ve waited long enough.”

The Houston Chronicle reports that the folks who operate strip clubs are less than thrilled about the idea that the fee posits a relation between nude dancing and sexual assault.

In face, one City Council member pointed out that such assaults most frequently occur in apartment complexes, while sexually oriented businesses are only the 10th most-common locations.

Last year, a court in New York ruled against strip clubs that had tried to argue that lap dances and door fees were exempt from state sales taxes because the performances fall under the category of “dramatic or musical art performance.”

Council approves $5-per-head strip club fee [Chron.com]


Edit Your Comment

  1. eldergias says:

    I have always laughed at the argument that something is a “dramatic or musical art performance” so you can’t regulate/tax it. By that logic, I should be able to go around punching people in the face as part of my “performance art.” You can’t arrest me officer, it was just my artistic expression.

    • wombats says:

      Except for the actual part of logic which would understand the difference between physically assulting random people and people willingly patronizing an establishment. One of these is not like the other.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Professional wrestling had the same problem. They started to be taxed as a professional sporting event when McMahon stepped in to argue that it was all fake and that it was actually performance art or some other bullsh*t excuse. Disney World also gets taxed as farmland instead of a massive business because they have something like 70 cows on their property.

      • sufreak says:

        Actually… Disney has a lot more than ’70 cows’ on their property. They have massive farms which grows much of their food.

        • Blueskylaw says:

          According to public records, the Osceola property appraiser’s office grew
          suspicious more than a year ago when the agricultural parcels became
          overgrown and fencing went unrepaired. Representatives from the office
          visited the parcels several times and found no cattle; it was only when
          the office scheduled a formal meeting with a Disney representative last
          August that they found cattle on the land.

          The appraiser’s office moved to revoke the agricultural
          classification. Disney officials protested and a special master was hired
          to arbitrate the dispute; the master ruled in Disney’s favor.

          • HSVhockey says:

            I’ve always loved the term Special Master. I want it on my business cards. Too bad you have to be appointed.

    • highfructosepornsyrup says:

      I would take the opposite tack. I don’t see why “dramatic or musical art performance” should get special treatment from any other kind of entertainment. As for punch-in-the-face drama, I think it would be fine if that’s the kind of thing the customer likes and knows what he’s getting into – kinda like visiting an S&M club.

    • Kabusted says:

      As long as I like getting punched in the face, it should be okay. Honestly though, I don’t see a lot of people lining up for this artistic performance unless you have boxers wanting to spar.

      That said…

      So what happens to the tax when the backlog is gone? Will Houston build new strip clubs with the extra money? No likely. They’ll stuff it down their own pants and claim that they don’t have enough money for some other mis-managed program.

  2. BigHeadEd says:

    This will only hurt the dancers to the tune of five one dollar bills per patron.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      Doubtful. An aroused man and his money are quickly (and easily) parted.

  3. Zelgadis says:

    Fewer fivers in g-strings. Abraham Lincoln is very disappointed.

  4. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    “pole tax”

    I see what you did there.

  5. highfructosepornsyrup says:

    Well… apparently clearing that backlog of unprocessed rape kits wasn’t that important until they found a random place to make a moneygrab.

    • Kabusted says:

      Funny… FoxNews.com has this story on the front page, Thursday (today), and its up to 6,000 kits.

      1) Were there 2,000 more rapes reported since yesterday?
      2) With Houston probably having more strip clubs than any other city in the nation, is that why Houston was chosen for this pole tax?
      3) At the rate of 2k rapes reported in one day, will Houston make enough money on these club patrons, or should they maybe charge a tax on something else like coffee, gas, candy, and anything else instead of relating strip club patrons to rapists? A female co-worker of mine goes to them just to stir up trouble, lets her girls shine, but doesn’t whip them out. Is she somehow responsible for rape?

      WTF? It’s just ludicrous all the way around.

  6. fatediesel says:

    Illinois just passed a similar bill that forces strip clubs to charge a $3 fee per person to fund rape counseling offices.

  7. Bladerunner says:

    “The money raised from the fee — a “pole tax,” if you will — is slated to go to help” clear the city’s massive backlog of unprocessed rape kits.

    “We have to do something to help the 4,000-plus women, children and men who have been sexually assaulted,” said the law’s sponsor. “I think we’ve waited long enough.””

    How are those two linked?!?

    • ChuckECheese says:

      Linked only rhetorically. Although processing rape kits is a police function, they don’t do it because believe it or not, rape is a low priority for policing. So the available money gets spent elsewhere, not because it was never there to begin with, but because prosecuting rapists was always a low priority for police.

      Now that there is an ostensible excuse for not having processed the rape kits, namely, lack of funding, a new tax can be created to fund this function without touching other line items. But the real story is that the police department got caught not processing rape kits. This is a problem throughout the country, and has been an issue in Phoenix also. Even in child sexual assault cases, the kits are not being processed.

      • The Porkchop Express says:

        What are they going to do next time somebody checks and they still haven’t done it?

        I mean I don’t care if they make me pay a little more to get into a strip club (never been and never going back) to cover some law enforcement costs or even benefits for civil servants, but I want to know for a fact that this is where it goes.

        • ChuckECheese says:

          Good point, and this is the problem with government and business generally – insufficient accountability to the public.

      • Bladerunner says:

        In what way rhetorically?

        Strip clubs = rape?

  8. Blueskylaw says:

    “We have to do something to help the 4,000-plus women, children and men who have been sexually assaulted,” said the law’s sponsor. “I think we’ve waited long enough.”

    How about starting by cutting spending and waste from government services?

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      This really pisses me off! Not the titty-tax but the fact they let thousands of rapes go without investigation. Hard to prosecute if you don’t even have the physical evidence. If they had been able to solve any serial rape case and prevented even a single rape, it would have been worth it. How many girls got raped due to sheer lack of interest by the police? Each of those lives devastated because the people paid to protect them laid down on the job. I’m guessing the SWAT team probably spends more on ammo than the cost to process these.

  9. smiling1809 says:

    What the heck do strip clubs have to do with sexual assaults? As gross and creepy as I think men who go to strip clubs are, iI don’t think there actually needs to be a tax on being gross and creepy. I don’t think that most men who go to strip clubs are going to sexually assault women. I do see the link between the objectification of women, but the women in strip clubs choose to be objectified for money, while rape victims do not. I think the city should find another way to pay for the rape kits.

    • The Porkchop Express says:

      you’re right, they should. But I also wouldn’t mind the extra cost if it really helps out in the long run.

      Plus I don’t know if I would say gross and creepy. Gross and creepy is the guy at the food court looking at all the women like he is, in fact, in a strip club.

      Plus, on a lot of nights strip clubs are full of women. Not sure why, but who cares really?

    • balderdashed says:

      You’re right. And linking the two is a bad idea for another reason as well: Rape is not about sex. It’s about power and control, and rape is used primarily as a way of gaining power. That’s what you’ll hear from rape crisis centers, and it does make sense. Linking strip clubs with rape suggests the opposite, and furthers the myth that rape is about sexual gratification, rather than a form of violence motivated by power. The tax is bad social policy, and the mythology it supports is not helpful — and potentially dangerous. If a potential victim believes she’s most at risk from an oversexed patron of a strip bar, she’s been misled. In fact, the overwhelming majority of victims are raped by someone they know, often in a dating situation. Strip clubs have nothing to do with it.

      • bd2008 says:

        Rape is absolutely about sex. The perpetrator has an orgasm for Christ’s sake!

        Evolutionary psychologists have been at pains to show that rape is actually a sexual crime through which men seek sexual gratification from women who would otherwise refuse them.

        Forensic evidence showing that victims, as a class, are most likely to be young physically attractive women (as opposed to older, more successful career women). On the other hand, convicted rapists are disproportionately young disadvantaged men whose low social status made them undesirable as dating partners, or husbands.

        • balderdashed says:

          There are so many fallacies in your argument that it’s hard to know where to start.

          “Rape is absolutely about sex. The perpetrator has an orgasm for Christ’s sake!” Not necessarily. Rape is in fact “penetration, no matter how slight…without the consent of the victim.” That’s the definition from the U.S. Justice Department.

          “Rape is actually a sexual crime through which men seek sexual gratification from women who would otherwise refuse them…” It’s pretty obvious that victims of rapists are “women who would otherwise refuse them,” since if they consented, there’s no rape. And while sexual gratification may be involved, do you really believe that is primarily what rapists are seeking? The overwhelming majority of those who’ve studied the issue believe that is not the case — it’s power and control, where sex may be part of the means, but it is not the end.

          “Forensic evidence showing that victims, as a class, are most likely to be young physically attractive women (as opposed to older, more successful career women).” You’re correct that younger women are more likely to be raped than older women — 56 percent of rape/sexual assault victims were under 25, according to one DOJ report. But what’s also true is that persons under 25 make up almost 50 percent of everyone who suffers any serious violent crime, according to the same study. The robbery rate for people under 25 is six times that of people 50 or older. What does all this tell us? That younger people are more likely to be victims of crime, period.

          “Convicted rapists are disproportionately young disadvantaged men whose low social status made them undesirable as dating partners, or husbands.” Those who are convicted and go to jail for any reason are disproportionately young, disadvantaged men. That’s who ends up in our criminal justice system — the poor, not the “advantaged.” It’s also true that these “young disadvantaged men” with “low social status” commit most violent crimes — all violent crimes, including rape.

          Your suggestion that social status made these rapists “undesirable as dating partners, or husbands,” is another fallacy. In fact, a high percentage of rapists are “dating partners.” About 85 to 90 percent of sexual assaults reported by college women are perpetrated by someone known to the victim, and about half occur on a date (National Institute of Justice 2008 study). To suggest otherwise could place some women in real danger if they ignore the facts and believe the myths that you’ve provided here.

  10. Applekid says:

    So who was the lone brave soul that voted against? Because that is a person clearly not pandering to anyone and they should be applauded.

  11. sufreak says:

    Texas seems to lead the way for crazy laws. Drinking and guns are great, but strippers and evolution are no-nos.

  12. evilpete says:

    ??what the fu*k??

  13. George4478 says:

    >>…slated to go to help clear the city’s massive backlog of unprocessed rape kits.


    Based on my experience, a small percentage will go to that function while the bulk will go to some politician’s pet project.

    In 10 years, a local news station will do a review and expose the mismanagement but the fee will remain forevermore since removing it would be a “vote for rapists” or a “blow against women’s rights”.

  14. JohnDeere says:

    i think they should tax churches to pay for sex education.

  15. TerpBE says:

    I’d like to see someone propose charging a tax for churchgoers, and using the money to pay for child victims of sexual abuse.

  16. frank64 says:

    I am sure the average costs to every tax payer in Houston would be less than $5 a year. The DNA testing is a normal law enforcement costs, and so everyone should pay for it. They say there has been a backlog for years, this shows bad leadership and skewed priorities. Now they can stick the bill on to a small segment of tax paying businesses, which I am sure pays other licensing fees due to the nature of the business.

    • Applekid says:

      But if you don’t approve of taxing strip clubs then you’re a pervert and an adulterer and a rapist and a pedophile and a terrorist and an anti-Semite all the way up to Mel Gibson.

      It feels like I just played Guess Who.

  17. Xmar says:

    The rape kit backlog is due to the city mismanaging money set aside for that purpose. They failed to get a tax raise approved, so this was the next place they could get money from.

  18. Stickdude says:

    And I’m sure they’ll roll back the tax once the backlog of unprocessed rape kits is handled.


  19. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Out of working people’s g-strings and into city coffers.

  20. balderdashed says:

    The problem with the fee is that it suggests that there is a causal relationship beween the existence of strip clubs and the problem of rape — and some feminists would no doubt try to make that case. It’s rather like the taxes or “health impact fees” that have been levied on cigarettes, with the justification that the fees cover the costs that smoking imposes on our health care system. There’s scientific evidence for that argument, but where’s the data to link lap dances or other consensual behavior with rape? I’m glad money is being found to assist victims of sexual assault, but to achieve that laudable goal, it would make just as much sense to tax bubble gum or peanut brittle.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I’d say it prevents rape. Watching pretty ladies is an outlet for men, and a lack of sexual outlet can lead to rape.

    • Pete the Geek says:

      Find out what the most correlating factor is and tax it to process the rape kits. My guesses are fast food, convenience stores and gas will all have a stronger correlation than strip clubs.

  21. tennesseemom says:

    I think it’s sad that over 4000 people have been raped or sexually assaulted:(

  22. Versonymous says:

    Aaaaaaand Georgia is stupid for fighting it.

    If the KKK wants to adopt a section of highway, let them, just be sure to hold them to whatever responsibilities go along with that. Just be sure to name the section they are adopting the “Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Highway”. Make the rename effective the exact day the adoption goes through!

    Then you can just go ahead and have all those signs printed up “This section of the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Highway proudly maintained by the KKK.” Make sure there is a picture of MLK on there. If they fail to uphold any obligations that go with the adoption, hold them accountable.

    • Versonymous says:

      No idea why that posted here. Had both stories open, definitely was looking at the other story… posted = went here. Can someone please delete? I seem to not be able to…

  23. icerabbit says:

    Oh please. Grilled/… mistakes happen. Yes, the extras were missing, so Mc Donald’s is at fault there but that’s no reason to get into a food fight.

    It is very simple: any instances where merchandise is not acceptable or something is missing and employees are not helpful, keep your calm, just pull ahead two car lengths (allowing the rest of the queue to move forward and get warm food) into the waiting aread (one local outfit has two reserved spots for mishaps or extra-special orders I figure). Anyway, pull over or park and go inside, politely ask for the manager and it’ll get resolved asap.

    I recall one instance where the price at the register was different than what was on the board outside. Absolutely impossible according to three staffers that then got together at the register, the computer says it is x, we checked the board inside the store and it also reads x, not y. I just paid the inflated price, parked, calmly walked into the store, explained the situation, manager verified the outside sign, said I was correct, refunded me the difference and was very apologetic. Sure it took a few extra minutes, but it was resolved.

    No need to get all hysterical throwing samwiches … it is not the end of the world. It is just a few dollar sandwich. They’ll make you another one.

    • icerabbit says:

      How the heck did my comment on the banned from McDonalds story get posted here??

      I didn’t even read this post!!

      Crazy internet, I guess.

  24. kc2gvx says:

    First they came to tax the cigarettes… I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a smoker
    Then they came to tax the booze… I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a drinker
    Then they came to tax the soda drinkers and I didn’t speak out because I drink diet
    Then they came for the strip clubs, and there was no one left to speak out

  25. TheCorporateGeek Says Common Sense Is The Key says:

    Just another bullshit think. This logical thinking leads to taxes for every type of business under the sun. As another commenter said, the people “working” for the money will get less now…

  26. TuxMan says:

    Since gay men don’t rape women and straight women don’t rape women; all male strip clubs should be tax exempt?

  27. PragmaticGuy says:

    It’s easier for the politicians to get a hold of your money this way than by having to give lap dances.

  28. gman863 says:

    Living in Houston and following the news, I’m having a hard time believing that a $5 pole tax will solve the issues inside the Houston Crime Lab.

    For years, the crime lab has been mismanaged (think CSI Houston starring The Three Stooges). There have been several investigations that revealed flawed testing processes which got many inmates a new trial or released from prison.

    If the backlog of rape kits have been improperly stored or chain of custody has been broken, the evidence will be tossed by even the greenest defense attorney. I also suspect the titty tax will be given to the Crime Lab without any stipulations; the city will lower its funding for it and divert the savings to other areas.

  29. physics2010 says:

    Except Texas already has a $5 pole tax to help abused women. Now another $5 for clearing DNA backlog….