New York Court Determines When a Gyrating Ass May Be Taxed

The stripper's pole is a slippery slope, or something like that


What do you mean this isn't cultural? He's wearing a suit!

What a terrible way to celebrate the release of Magic Mike on DVD/Blu-ray today! A very divided New York Court of Appeals has ruled that lap dances are not art and don't promote culture and are therefore subject to state sales taxes. Via the Associated Press:

Lap dances are taxable because they don't promote culture in a community the way ballet or other artistic endeavors do, New York's highest court concluded Tuesday in a sharply divided ruling.

The court split 4-3, with the dissenting judges saying there's no distinction in state law between "highbrow dance and lowbrow dance," so the case raises "significant constitutional problems."

The lawsuit was filed by Nite Moves in suburban Albany, which was arguing fees for admission to the strip club and for private dances are exempt from sales taxes.

The court majority said taxes apply to many entertainment venues, such as amusement parks and sporting events. It ruled the club has failed to prove it qualifies for the exemption for "dramatic or musical arts performances" that was adopted by the Legislature "with the evident purpose of promoting cultural and artistic performances in local communities."

So to describe the ruling in Channing Tatum terms (which is how all court rulings should be described): Live performances from Step Up would be exempt from sales taxes; live performances from Magic Mike would not.

Judge Robert Smith pointed out in his dissent that the majority ruling here does not actually comply with the wording of the state's legislation on what is and is not exempt from tax. While the majority may dismiss the artfulness of Tatum's thrusting hips, the actual law makes no such distinctions:

[T]he only question in the case is whether the admission charges that the State seeks to tax were paid for dance performances. There is not the slightest doubt that they were. That is proved by the video introduced into evidence before the Tribunal, and the testimony of two witnesses, an executive of petitioner and a dancer, with personal knowledge. The people who paid these admission charges paid to see women dancing. It does not matter if the dance was artistic or crude, boring or erotic. Under New York's Tax Law, a dance is a dance.

Smith worries that highbrow/lowbrow split on what constitutes "dance" ultimately leads to discriminatory application of the law:

I do not read Hustler magazine; I would rather read the New Yorker. I would be appalled, however, if the State were to exact from Hustler a tax that the New Yorker did not have to pay, on the ground that what appears in Hustler is insufficiently "cultural and artistic." That sort of discrimination on the basis of content would surely be unconstitutional.

You can read the ruling here as a Scribd file.

NEXT: Widow Can Collect Workers Comp For Husband Who Got Heart Attack on Super Bowl Sunday

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Remember, we’re fighting for privileges, not rights. Once you figure that out, our relationship to government makes so much more sense.

    Now go enjoy your five minute shower, increased from three minutes.

    1. Doubleplusgood!

    2. Double plus good!

  2. Any hopes Robert Smith had for the Supreme Court just flew off like a stripper’s G-string.

    1. I was thinking that without knowing anything else* about him, that he seems qualified, on that passage alone, with a Supremes position.

      *I am familiar with his work with The Cure.

  3. How about if they just tax everyone the same since why should “art’ be tax exempt while shoes aren’t.

    But I guess if that happened then the politicians would not be able to get their ‘artistic” children jobs at art galleries and museums.

  4. So what about performance art? Interpretative dance? Plays with nudity? The David?

    1. I think we all know classy when we see it. Well, I know *I* do.

      1. I have a cunning plan. Strip clubs should replace poles with statues of naked people. You know, established art, like The David.

        Otherwise, all the same, except that the stripping is now referred to as interpretative dance, making critical comments about the art in question each night. Particularly insightful commentary will be paid for by patrons on the spot.

        1. An episode of Real Sex showed a strip club have its artists perform the Macbeth witches scence in the nude to help it around similar restrictions.

            1. See? It’s all good.

              Yeah, maybe for fans of William Shakespeare Christopher Marlowe. But what about those of us that are more into Wagner or Mozart?

              1. The beauty of the free market is that there are skanky dancers willing to provide this service to you, too.

                And it was Francis Bacon.

                1. We should open a club called Striplosophy.

                  Every Tuesday is Nietzsche night.

                    1. That was for PL’s Zarathustra mention.

                    2. I have more:

                      Critique of Pure Sleazing
                      Phenomenology of the Strip
                      Discourse on Metastripping
                      Nicomachean Ecdysiast
                      Clothing and Nothingness
                      De Rectum Natura
                      The Repubic

    2. Irrelevant. We don’t have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem.

    1. Always liked that scene.

      Though I doubt that all the judges in the dissent here would apply that to direct subsidies. The Yes, Minister scene is more appropriate to discussions of, say, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which then funds local stations that then purchase NPR and PBS programming. (Since subsidy supporters like to talk about NPR and PBS get most of their money from local stations.)

      1. Nearly every scene in Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister is gold. Under my reign as dictator of America and protector of the people, Yes, Minister will be required viewing in every civics class in America.

        1. It really is the best show ever about how government and politics really works.


    1. Textualism, bitches. //Scalia

      1. Nope. That would be Original Meaning. Original Intent is the blessed art of mind reading.

        1. I know, I’m just picturing how Scalia would look at this case involving the law. His whole philosophy is that people ought to be punished for electing dickhead legislatures that make these stupid laws rather than expecting the courts to save them.

          1. Well, that does ensure that people get the government they want. Good. And. Hard.

            1. Well, 51% of people anyway.

              1. 51% of people who voted.*

                *Standard graveyard voter disclaimer.

        2. I’m not so hostile to Original Intent. There are enough historical documents surrounding the constitution that make it very, very clear that the purpose of the document was to limit government, not create a Pelosi-style expansion of UNLIMITED POWAH!

          *Clenches spiked Gauntlet-clad fist!*

          1. She really could play the Emperor from Star Wars in a remake. They wouldn’t even have to use digital effects to make the force lightening since I’m prety sure she can do that already.

          2. I don’t think it’s as clear as you say. Hamilton and Washington were both pushing for Federal supreme power. Many anti-Federalists recognized the gaping hole that was the General Welfare clause. Madison, a waffler contrary to popular belief, only reluctantly agreed to the Bill of Rights.

            Documents of the period will help give context to definitions of words, but I lean much stronger towards the Original Meaning/Textualist camp than Intent.

            1. That’s not right. Hamilton wanted greater central authority, not total. All of them were, by today’s standards, radically attached to the concept of limited government.

              1. * Hamilton
                * Limited Government

                One of these things is not like the other.

                Hamilton effectively wanted unlimited taxation power. I’ve been doing a lot of Constitutional reading in the last year, and I’m left with a very bitter taste of what Hamilton wanted.

        3. So the Federalist Papers are just astrology, then?

  6. So to describe the ruling in Channing Tatum terms (which is how all court rulings should be described)

    No homo? (NTTAWWT)

    1. I’m a dude writing about lap dances who went directly to Channing Tatum for a theme. What do you think?

      1. So did reason bring you in to fill the diversity quota once they found out Matt wasn’t gay*?

        *I’m kidding, of course. Except I really did think Matt was gay for the longest time.

        1. It’s the pictures. Half of the pictures of Matt make him look like a middle-aged lesbian.

        2. I thought everybody knew he swings both ways.

  7. That sort of discrimination on the basis of content would surely be unconstitutional.

    How on Earth did this judge get his position? Surely everyone has moved on from this type of backwards thinking.

    1. It’s like he wants to go back to the stone age that was 40 years ago!

      1. 40 years? This is the kind of thinking Justice Marshall thought he could get away with back in the beginning.

  8. Judge Robert Smith pointed out in his dissent

    Proof that The Cure still kick ass.

  9. Perfect set up for a stripper photo and you use Ellen? YOU BASTARD!

    1. Count your blessings. I almost went with him giving Elton John one.

  10. Can a nigga get a table dance?

    1. Thank you for reminding me of that. It was surely a cultural high point of the aughts.

  11. Forcing the lowbrow to subsidize the highbrow is the mark of a truly civilized society.

    1. I’m reminded of Cleveland’s “World Class Orchestra”. Sadly.

  12. So what about performance art?

    Last time I checked, President of the United states is a paid position.

  13. In my town, the city government killed off the lap dance by having a ‘no nudity within six feet’ rule – or whatever the distance was. It pretty much killed off my charity work for young mothers (or mothers to be).

  14. What about the Champagne Room? I can still get “dances” in there, right?

    1. Interpretative studies of pre-Colombian sexual practices, yes.

  15. Lap dances are taxable because they don’t promote culture in a community the way ballet or other artistic endeavors do, New York’s highest court concluded Tuesday in a sharply divided ruling.

    You can’t subsidize and exempt from taxation things people actually want to see! Next thing you know, we’ll be exempting the latest Pixar movie or the Expendables 3! It’s appealling to the lowest common denominator! It’s barbarism!

  16. Ug, puritanism is a snide bitch.

  17. I guess Channing Tatum is the guy with his arse in Ellen’s face, but I’m glad I don’t really know. Why do I keep hearing that name?

    1. Alt-text: As he flinches from the surprise penetration, Ellen laughs, ‘bitch, how do you like me now?’

      1. I don’t he’s feminine enough for Ellen’s tastes, but maybe worth a quickie with it up in her face…

  18. If you put Rick Santorum on a merry-go-round, would that gyrating ass be taxable?

  19. huge props to and to mr shackford for including a link to the actual ruling, so we can read it ourselves in addition to the media commentary. oh, if only the “majors” did so as well, it would make life much better. again, this is good journalism. back in the day, before the intert00bs, there were no ‘links’. we relied on journalists to read and parse court rulings etc. for those of us who weren’t about to traipse down to the courthouse and plug in to lexis nexis. but now-a-days, it’s (to paraphrase mick jagger) just a click away.

    thanks again

  20. cops shoot dog… on video…

    and after dog owner SEES video, he apologizes to officers for initially complaining and supports their actions.

    VIDEO – it helps the truth come out

    it’s a running joke among those ignorant of street reality – cop shoots dog, as if that is somehow indicative of a bad shoot. anybody who can watch this video and think this is a bad shoot has vision problems…..-pit-bull/

    these bodyworn POV cameras are awesome in that they offer a true “officer’s viewpoint” and of course in UOF determinations, what is key is what is seen (and known) from the viewpoint of the person using force.

    and the #1 impediment to prevent officers from having these devices is of course… $$$$$$$$$

    1. I’m glad they’re using bodyworn cameras in some places now. I’ve been wondering why they haven’t been doing that for years. It would take the speculation out of a lot of situation.

      Until, of course, the cameras ‘mysteriously malfunction’ or the video is lost on the questionable shoots.

      1. At this point there is no reason why everything any cop does on duty is not audio and video recorded. It should be a requirement.

    2. Just keep reposting that same video over and over, D.

      It obviously justifies all the bad shoots, like those Detroit cops shooting dogs behind fences and chasing them through the house to put a bullet in them.

      1. Yep, this is like the 5th time. It’s all he’s got. Pretty soon he’ll start bitching about people having pectoral muscles again.

    3. and the #1 impediment to prevent officers from having these devices is of course… $$$$$$$$$

      They could always just spend less on the vice department……

  21. “‘m glad they’re using bodyworn cameras in some places now. I’ve been wondering why they haven’t been doing that for years. It would take the speculation out of a lot of situation.”


    “Until, of course, the cameras ‘mysteriously malfunction’ or the video is lost on the questionable shoots.”

    the inevitable black helicopter rubbish looms

    1. Because video that might corroborate witnesses who take issue with the “official” version never disappears.

      1. shit sometimes dissapears and shit sometimes doesn’t work.

        welcome to govt. work

        and not just govt. work

        the last 2 duis i had took place in private parking lots with video surveillance

        and guess what, in BOTH of them, the private video surveillance cameras weren’t working either on those nights in question, according to the store owners

        that’s how shit works and doesn’t work in the real world.

        sure, occasionally, we have nefarious erasures by bad cops. MOST of the time, we have good video, and when we don’t, the VAST majority of the time, it’s simple user error (shit set up improperly) or equipment failure.

        perfection is the 2nd door on the left but here in the real world, we deal with imperfection a lot

        there’s still a metric assload of cops out there trying to do the right thing and most of the time the video supports their account

  22. Where oh where is Kevin Bacon when we need him? Our conservative small-town mores need to be confronted with by sassy teen who will dance a path to freedom for us all…

  23. Kevin Bacon is sometimes down the hill from me, but if I can round him up, I’d gleefully trade him for Julianne Hough, and maybe trade some more Bacon bros for a case of wine and a gallon of extra virgin olive oil.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.