New York's Court of Appeals has just made a decision about a Very Important Topic: Whether lap dances can be considered art—and therefore can be exempt from taxes. The state's highest court declared today that lap dances ARE DEFINITELY NOT ART—so pay up, Nite Moves!
The Albany-area "juice bar"/gentlemen's club had argued that their dances were "dramatic or musical arts performances," but the court ruled 4-3:
Clearly, it is not irrational for the Tax Tribunal to decline to extend a tax exemption to every act that declares itself a “dance performance.” If ice shows presenting pairs ice dancing performances, with intricately choreographed dance moves precisely arranged to musical compositions, were not viewed by the Legislature as “dance” entitled a tax exemption, surely it was not irrational for the Tax Tribunal to conclude that a club presenting performances by women gyrating on a pole to music, however artistic or athletic their practiced moves are, was also not a qualifying performance entitled to exempt status. To do so would allow the exemption to swallow the general tax since many other forms of entertainment not specifically listed in the regulation will claim their performances contain tax-exempt rehearsed, planned or choreographed activity.
But the dissenting opinion noted that the ruling "makes a distinction between highbrow dance and lowbrow dance that is not to be found in the governing statute and raises significant constitutional problems." Please, please, please—TAKE THIS TO THE SUPREME COURT. We need to know how Antonin Scalia feels about this.
Nite Moves owes around $125,000 in sales tax on door charges and lap dances; it's been fighting a tax audit since 2005. The club said today:
Once again, we would like to take this opportunity to thank the many of you that have been supporting us in seeking justice for the better part of the past decade. As many of you heard today, the NYS Court of Appeals has come back with a split decision (4-3) against including exotic dance in the exemption from sales tax. The 3 brave justices that were willing to stand up for what is right and not be lead astray by moral judgments or political pressures should be commended for their willingness to put their duties before their personal agendas. To say that we are not saddened or surprised by the verdict of the other 4 would be untrue. While we were certain that one judge in particular was never going to accept that ALL dance should be treated equally in NY, we were more hopeful that the others would look at the legal questions posed and come back with the only verdict that would be constitutionally feasible. We will be speaking with the attorneys today to plan how best to deal with this matter in the future. Thank you all again for your continued support in this matter. Even if you personally do not agree with exotic dancing, as Judge Smith says in his decision, you still have a duty as an American to stand up to anyone seeking to usurp your constitutional rights. Every ruling in this country that limits your freedom and your rights is one step closer to what our forefathers fought to prevent.