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]


Edit Your Comment

  1. samonela says:

    RE: The article’s picture…

    Just got an unshakable mental image of Norm and Cliff sitting topless at the bar.


  2. missy070203 says:

    “bumping and grinding to the beat while sort of sitting on someone’s lap”—- If that’s all the girls can do at that club then they’re doing it all wrong… it takes some effort to get all the way up that pole and slide back down it and don’t forget the hair flips, motor boats, and the but cheek giggle they do…. plus strip clubs usually have a DJ and play full on music with lyrics not just beats- then they have to show emotion in their lyrical numbers….. yeah, it may not be ballet or jazz tap but it’s still pretty interesting art.

  3. frank64 says:

    I think practically the cover charge would be for a performance and should be exempted, but the lap dances are more of a service and should be taxes as sales.

    I am more concerned with the states that charge a special tax for strip clubs. That is totally wrong. I think Texas charges something close to $10 for every person that enters? Texas should be forced to charge every performance the same amount. Then see how people see it!

  4. shepd says:

    I thought in the United States porn was NOT considered fully copyrightable until 1979 because it had been decided many years ago it is not art?

    While I completely agree with the bar that erotic dancing is art, chances are the US government doesn’t considering that to get porn copyrighted it was described only as “obscenity” and nothing else.

    • bluline says:

      There is a very distinct legal difference between pornography and obscenity. Porn is legal and can be copyrighted (Playboy, Penthouse, the soft-core stuff you see on Cinemax, etc.). Obscenity is illegal. The true test is trying to distinguish between the two, however. For most people, they know it when they see it, but that distinction can’t be codified into law.

      • RenegadePlatypus says:

        Brings to mind another question – Is hiring a hooker legal as long as you shoot the session on video and call it pornography?

      • RenegadePlatypus says:

        Wrong. Obscenity is NOT illegal, things deemed “obscene” in legal terms are simply not protected by the first amendment. Pornography is considered obscenity, legally, along with other things like 900# sex messages and George Carlin’s comedy act . Also – there is not a “distinct legal difference between pornography and obscenity”. That is why it is not protected by the first amendment. But it is not illegal by any means. Same for 900# sex messages. They are considered “obscenity”, legally, and as such are not protected by the first amendment.

    • Oh_No84 says:

      Stripping is purely entertainment. It is no different than any improv show on broadway.
      The strip club is 100% right that they should be exempt as “live dramatic or musical arts performances” just as any other live performance.

  5. longfeltwant says:

    This sounds like a poorly written law. Stop trying to legislate what is “art” and legislate something indisputable. I suggest proximity. If a dancer is within ten feet of the patron, then tax it.

    Or, even better, stop trying to carve out exceptions. Just tax things equally, sheesh, it seems like that would be easier for everyone.

    • frank64 says:

      “Or, even better, stop trying to carve out exceptions. Just tax things equally, sheesh, it seems like that would be easier for everyone”

      That makes practical sense, but they like to carve out niches to tax so there is less opposition. The way I see it, taxes should be as broad as possible so that everyone contributes, why should smokers pay for more for our children than anyone else. Many times these sin taxes are to pay for a great cause, this makes it harder to dispute. I say if the cause is so great, get everyone to chip instead of making a few pay more.

      My state MA is doing this with casinos. Gambling is illegal due to its immorality, but then they get involved and tax the hell out of it and it is great. The lotteries take a bigger cut than the mob did, and now the casinos have to pay millions of dollars to the state in order to get built, and then the state takes a bigger cut than the casinos themselves. This get almost no complaints because it is indirect, and the casinos are considering a cost of business. Gamblers are getting taxed up the wazoo.

      • RxDude says:

        Lotteries are a tax on being bad at math.

        • axhandler1 says:

          Tell that to the McLauren MP4-12C parked in my driveway, bought with lottery proceeds!

          In my fantasy world.

        • TinaBringMeTheAx says:

          I disagree.

          I know my odds of winning a hundred million dollars are about a thousand times less then my odds of getting killed by a random stranger. But without playing the lottery, my odds of ever having a hundred millions dollars is zero. So for around $100 a year, which I can afford, I take the chance.

    • StarKillerX says:


      The government has gotten very good at the divide and conquer and are able to push anything threw as long as they can break it into small enough pieces that it only effects a minority.

  6. SpeakR40Dead says:

    “doesn’t mean their performances aren’t choreographed”

    … what what?! It was choreographed?! And here all along I though I was special. [acting surprised]

  7. thenutman69321 says:

    “bumping and grinding to the beat while sort of sitting on someone’s lap”

    If she’s only sort of on your lap, you are wasting your money at the worst strip club in existence.

    • Chuft-Captain says:

      Many states have legislated things like this. So there are a lot of places where the dancers cannot touch, or be touched by, the patrons. There are also limits on just how close to nude they can get.

    • Mary Beth Quirk says:

      I suppose by “sort of sit” I meant that I feel like dancers aren’t just supposed to plunk down. It’s more of a hover, sit for a second, hover, wiggle, hover, sit maneuver. At least, that’s what I imagine it to be, not having been lap danced upon.

  8. RxDude says:

    This artistic musical performance provokes a dramatic reaction…in my pants.

    Really, though, if most of what passes for “performance art” is exempt from the tax, the state has very little legal ground to demand the tax be collected on the work of the dancers. The state can only hope they get judges who make a sour face every time they hear “lap dance”, or judges who see it as their sacred duty to grab every possible penny for the state.

  9. PragmaticGuy says:

    I can just see some erotic dancer telling some guy that’s “it’s $20 for the dance plus $1.78 tax.” I wonder where she’s going to hang her coin changer.

  10. sqeelar says:

    I thought dancers rented the stage, much like taxi drivers renting cabs, or doctors renting a satellite office from a hospital. I don’t go out much.

  11. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    Was the cultural anthropologist named Upgraydd, spelled with two Ds for a double dose of his pimpin’?

  12. Guppy06 says:

    If it isn’t speech, I don’t think it would still pass the Miller Test.