Philadelphia stirs a lap dance tax tussle

2 'gentlemen's clubs' are crying foul over the city's attempt to collect more than $800,000 in amusement levies.

By Jonathan Berr Jul 11, 2013 9:45AM

Men and legs of table dancer © Image Source, Image Source, Getty ImagesPhiladelphia has determined that the code of chivalry doesn't cover lap dances -- but its amusement tax does.

A five-year audit by city officials found Club Risque and Cheerleaders, two so-called gentlemen's clubs, had failed to collect the 5% amusement tax on their performances and owe $320,538 and $486,482 in taxes, respectively. 

The owners have filed an appeal with the Tax Review Board, which is slated to hear the case later this month.

Attorney George Bochetto, who represents the clubs, told ABC News, "Since the city is broke, they want money for lap dances." He couldn't be reached for comment for this story.

Actually, the city's finances are improving. Standard & Poor's recently raised its rating on Philadelphia's debt, and officials expect a $178 million surplus this year.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, of course, sees things differently than the clubs do. Spokesman Mark McDonald denied that there was a "lap dance tax." He also told MSN Money that other strip clubs in the city pay taxes on lap dance performances.

"I am not in a position to talk about pending litigation," McDonald said, adding that another taxpayer, whom he declined to identify, is in the same situation.

In the city's view, a lap dance is like any other service the club is offering, such as alcoholic drinks, that are subject to tax.

This issue has actually come up before.

New York's highest court ruled last year that lap dances were not "dramatic or musical arts performances" like ballet or theater and were therefore subject to taxation. The 4-3 decision cost the club Nite Moves almost $125,000, according to The New York Times. An attorney for the clubs was quoted as saying he would appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, though odds of that being successful are slim.

If Nite Moves had won its case, strip-show attendees could have argued without fear of contradiction that they were "patrons of the arts."

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jul 11, 2013 1:50PM
What do you expect in the Demorat infested Northeast..Tax tax, tax, tax, take, take, take, regulate, regulate, tax, tax. That's the party mantra.
Jul 11, 2013 11:20AM
Jul 11, 2013 2:42PM
Democrats stay up late at night thinking of new ways to transfer private wealth into the public coffers.
Jul 11, 2013 12:51PM
Jul 11, 2013 2:58PM
Why not put a tax meter on her box?
Jul 11, 2013 3:21PM

It's time, if you own a business, that travels, or if the last 4.4 years have left you any money, bail out.

get out now, no point in staying here and watching the dem bloodsuckers finish the destruction of the USA and helping to fund handouts for the dem bloodsuckers.

Jul 11, 2013 11:18AM
Taxing lap dances?Give me a break.Tax everything else, but not lap dances !
Jul 11, 2013 11:34AM
typical rich greedy liberals taxing hard working women.  why do democrats have a war on hard working single moms?
Jul 11, 2013 11:25AM

DLH2448;How often do you go to those places?I go for the great food and the music.I used

to watch porn just for the great conversations in the movies.

Jul 11, 2013 7:25PM
Now every time they book a prostitute, they need to get her for tax evasion too!
Jul 11, 2013 11:23PM
many taxes are just  legal extortion
Jul 11, 2013 10:18AM

how about an article on how the democrats in the senate refusing to pass a bill keeping student loan interest rates at 3.4 instead of jumping to 6.8%  ITS OBVIOUS DEMOCRATS HAVE A WAR ON STUDENTS AND ARE ALSO THE NEW PARTY OF NO

Jul 11, 2013 7:47PM
I could not watch her dance in those checkered tights!  Hurts my eyes!!!!
Jul 11, 2013 6:48PM
If you have an erection lasting more than four hours, tell your doctor.  Ask your doctor if he/she thinks a four hour erection may cause blindness, loss of vision, increased heart rate, abnormal sweating, or callouses of the hands.  Ask your doctor if he/she recommends "tail' for an erection lasting more than four hours.  An erection lasting more than four hours might kill you but ask your doctor for some "tail" TODAY.  If you cannot afford your "tail" ask your doctor if you might have some help paying for your "tail" but call TODAY.  800-who-give A Damn?
Jul 11, 2013 5:04PM
"dramatic or musical arts performances" like ballet or theater and were therefore subject to taxation."
Well that's really the point isn't it?  I mean if ballet got you off like that it might be worth taxes too.
Jul 11, 2013 6:12PM

Not dramatic performances?  Obviously, no one from the NY courts has been to a good spot.

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