ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A New York court says getting a lap dance isn't the same as taking in a ballet, so an alcohol-free strip club will have to pay the tax man.
Four Appellate Division justices agree with a decision by a state tax appeals commission that says dances onstage or in private rooms at a suburban Albany juice bar don't qualify for a tax exemption as "dramatic or musical arts performances."
The court says that among other reasons, the dancers aren't even required to have any formal dance training.
The case involves 677 New Loudon Corp., doing business as Nite Moves, and a tax bill of nearly $125,000 plus interest the state says it owes on lap dances and admission fees.
The club's attorney, W. Andrew McCullough, said Friday he'll probably appeal.
Associate Justice John C. Egan Jr. wrote a nine-page ruling that cited numerous elements of tax case law and went into exhaustive detail defining aspects such as dramatic or musical arts, choreography and whether Nite Moves qualified as a "place of amusement."
"Hence, the issue distills to whether the club's admission and private dance fees constitute charges for admission to a 'live dramatic, choreographic or musical performance,'" he wrote.
The club sought expert testimony from a cultural anthropologist who researched the field of exotic dance, visited the club and reviewed the dances depicted on the Nite Moves DVD. She offered an opinion that "the presentations at Nite Moves are unequivocally live dramatic choreographic performances."
The unnamed expert further concluded that the private dances performed at the club, such as lap dances, involved "similar kinds of movements" as those portrayed by the dancers on stage and therefore also "qualified as choreographed performances."
The five-member court disagreed. The record from the Tax Tribunal hearing showed the club's dancers were not required to have formal training and relied on videos or suggestions from other dancers "to learn their craft."