'Lap dance tax' shot down again

SHUTTERSTOCK A judge ruled that lap dances should not be subject to the city's amusement tax.
SHUTTERSTOCK A judge ruled that lap dances should not be subject to the city's amusement tax.
Posted: July 18, 2014

THE COURT has spoken: There shall not be taxation with gyration.

Ruling from the bench after a brief hearing, Common Pleas Judge Ellen Ceisler yesterday morning rejected the city's attempt to impose a tax on lap dances in strip clubs.

Mayor Nutter's administration was appealing a decision by the Nutter-appointed Tax Review Board, which said the city's applying the amusement tax - 5 percent on admission charges - to lap dances at certain strip clubs was inappropriate.

Ceisler sided with lawyers for the strip joints, who argued that they already pay the amusement tax on cover charges, that "interior activities" are not subject to the tax and that the city was applying the tax inconsistently.

"It's plain that the amusement tax is crafted in a way to apply to door charges, admissions fees [and] cover charges. It is not intended to cover interior entertainment issues," said lawyer George Bochetto, who represented Cheerleaders and Club Risque. "If the city wants to tax interior amusement activities, then they need to go to City Council."

City Solicitor Shelley Smith said the city has not yet decided whether it will appeal the decision again.

"The amusements tax taxes amusements. Lap dances are a separate amusement once the person gets inside the club," she said. "The lap dance is a separate thing that is purchased once the person is inside the club, so we believe that we're legally justified in imposing this tax."

- Staff writer Jenny DeHuff

contributed to this report.


On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout

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