Lap Dances Not Art No Matter How Good, Stuffy Court Rules

A dancer performs at a strip club
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Strip clubs are not exempt from sales tax on lap dances because they do not count as “dramatic or musical arts performances,” the New York Court of Appeals ruled today. The tax break was designed “with the evident purpose of promoting cultural and artistic performances in local communities,” but according to the 4–3 decision, the Albany strip club Nite Moves doesn’t cut it and now owes the state more than $400,000. If ice-dancing isn’t included, the majority ruled, then it’s “not irrational … to conclude that a club presenting performances by women gyrating on a pole to music, however artistic or athletic their practiced moves are, was also not a qualifying performance entitled to exempt status.”

Even in the dissenting opinion, a judge called lap dances “unedifying — indeed, I am stuffy enough to find it distasteful,” but because the law does not distinguish between “highbrow dance and lowbrow dance” there are “significant constitutional problems” with the ruling, he said.

Perhaps for similar reasons, I do not read Hustler magazine,” the judge wrote. “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 was [sic] appears in Hustler is insufficiently ‘cultural or artistic.’” To which we say, brilliant.

Lap Dances Not Art, Stuffy New York Court Rules