Pole dancing is just as much a legitimate form of artistic expression as opera and theater.
So said a New York tax law judge who ruled last Friday that the pole dancing done at Albany-based strip club Nite Moves is tax-exempt because it’s an art form, while the club’s private shows and lap dances are not and are therefore subject to a tax, reports New York Daily News.
The club made $4.9 million in total revenue between the years 2005 and 2010, with $3 million coming solely from lap dances. The club must now pay the sales tax — estimated at under $530,000 — on the total $3 million lap dance revenue it earned to cover its tax audit.
In his ruling, Administrative Law Judge Joseph Pinto said the club’s pole dancing stage counted legally as a place where a planned performance, like those found at the “theater, opera house, concert hall or other hall or place of assembly for a live, dramatic, choreographed or musical performance” is given. He wrote of the club’s pole dancing set-up:
“There is a stage for the performers illuminated by spotlights; a dressing room for the dancers, who, at times, wear an array of different costumes; and tables and seating that are oriented towards the stage to focus audience attention on the performances.”
In order to assess the taxability of the club’s services, undercover tax auditors visited Nite Moves on several occasions. One auditor had it particularly hard, ahem, because he had to endure multiple lap dances — sometimes two during a single visit — over the course of nearly two decades to test the theory that they were not, in fact, forms of art. The judge wrote in his ruling:
“He said the private dances were very similar. He experienced back rubs from some performers and women massaging him with various body parts. He admitted he was not an expert in choreography but did not think what he experienced in the private dance was choreographed.”
The judge concluded by saying:
“From the evidence in the record, it is concluded that the private dances were not choreographed dance. There was no pole to perform on; the music was not chosen by the performers (in contrast to their stage dances) thereby prohibiting any forethought of the choreography; (and) the private room space was not a stage.”
As for paying the tax, the owner of Nite Moves, Stephen Dick Jr., said he hoped he could work out a deal with the state’s department of taxation and finance.
We’re guessing that won’t include more lap dances.