NY Strip Club Seeks Tax Exemption Because Art

A strip club just outside of Albany called Nite Moves made the case Wednesday in New York's Court of Appeals that its cover charge ($11) and lap dance fees ($20 for three minutes) shouldn't be subject to the state's eight percent sales tax because naked dancing is an art form, not unlike ballet. After a 2005 audit of the club's revenue found that it owed about $400,000 for not charging sales tax on the cover and the dances, Nite Moves is hoping to qualify for the same sales tax exemption as the New York City Ballet that exempts sales tax charges for "dramatic or musical art performances."

Nite Moves serves non-alcoholic drinks, thereby allowing its dancers to perform in the nude. It also features some artsy, Eyes Wide Shut décor such as "cushy barrel" chairs, erotic artwork, and brass sconces. Though the artistic merits of stripping and pole dancing are debatable (at the very least, it requires a lot of skill, strength, and gumption), nothing is quite so hilarious as listening to attorneys debate those merits in a serious yet discreet way. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman tip-toed around why, exactly, stripping and pole-dancing aren't the same as ballet. Schneiderman noted that, while "pole tricks" are "difficult to perform," dancers at Nite Moves "have no prior dance experience at all and simply learn moves from other dancers during slow shifts over time." He also wrote in his briefs that a dancer at Nite Moves isn't necessarily "engaged in a genuine choreographic dance performance when she removes her clothing," and that some lonely patrons don't even come in to watch a show — they come for a tête-à-tête with a particularly conversant dancer.

Nite Moves CFO Stephen Dick (really) argued that, if the State's main gripe is that dancers didn't go to school to learn their trade, then Eric Clapton (a similarly unschooled dilettante guitarist) should pay sales tax on his concerts. So there.

State, Strip Club Fight Over Taxes [WSJ]