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NY Court to Determine If Lap Dance Constitutes Tax-Exempt 'Art

"The fact that the dancers remove all or part of their costume...simply does not render such dance routines as something less than choreographed performances"

(TheBlaze/AP) -- New York's highest court will soon be considering legal arguments by a strip club on whether nude dancing is an art form and therefore deserves a state tax exemption, according to the Associated Press.

The case, set for oral arguments Wednesday, involves "Nite Moves," an adult entertainment club in suburban Albany that contested a tax bill of more than $124,000 following a 2005 audit.

Tax officials say sales taxes were paid on the club's non-alcoholic drinks, but are also owed on admission and so-called "couch sales," where patrons pay for private or lap dances.

Nite Moves claims the dances are exempt under state tax law as "live dramatic or musical arts performances," which often applies to theater or ballet.

Amusingly, the club is relying on testimony from a cultural anthropologist who has studied exotic dance and visited Nite Moves.

An administrative law judge previously agreed with the strip club, saying that "the fact that the dancers remove all or part of their costume...simply does not render such dance routines as something less than choreographed performances."

But the state Tax Appeals Tribunal begged to differ, saying it failed to present sufficient proof that it qualifies for the exemption, and a mid-level court upheld the tribunal ruling last year.

"In our view, there can be no serious question that - at a bare minimum - petitioner failed to meet its burden of establishing that the private dances offered at its club were choreographed performances," the Appellate Division court ruled. The four justices also found "no merit" to the club's constitutional claims.

The appellate court also noted that the club dancers are not required to have any formal dance training, and that the anthropologist didn't see any of the dances done in private rooms.

The court typically takes about a month to issue a decision.

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