Strip Club Claims Lap Dances Are Just As Arty As Other Dances & Should Be Tax Exempt

Is there a difference between bumping and grinding to the beat while sort of sitting on someone’s lap, and creating art through dance? One strip club in New York doesn’t think so, and as such, wants to be exempt from state taxes just like any other artistic venue. The club is on the line for $124,000 in unpaid taxes and is heading off to the Court of Appeals to face the state tax department with lap dances at the center of the fight.

Tax officials say the club is all paid up on its non-alcoholic drinks, but that it didn’t fork over taxes on admission and “couch sales,” which we all know as a lap dance. It also includes any private dances patrons paid for, reports the Associated Press.

The club says those rump-shaking performances are exempt under New York’s tax law as “live dramatic or musical arts performances.’’ I can’t say I’ve ever had a lap dance but I would think a patron would want one that is far from dramatic, no?

In order to bolster its argument, the club has called in a cultural anthropologist who’s an expert on exotic dance and will testify on behalf of the club. Said anthropologist has visited the club — just part of field work, everybody.

The attorney for the club says no matter what the court rules, it won’t have that much of an impact on the industry, as most other venues with strippers sell alcohol, bringing other tax rules in to play. An administrative law judge already sided with the club saying that just because dancers take off clothing, it doesn’t mean their performances aren’t choreographed just like other kinds of dance.

The state Tax Appeals Tribunal isn’t buying it, however, and says there’s not enough proof that the club should qualify for an exemption. The Appellate Division court ruled on the tribunal’s behalf last year, finding “no merit” to the club’s claims and that the business didn’t prove that lap dances were choreographed.

I took a class once where we read a book called “But Is It Art?” and I still don’t know the answer to this one.

NY court to decide if lap dance is tax-exempt art [Associated Press]