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Lap Dances Not 'Culture,' Nor Tax Exempt, Court Rules

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 25, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a 4-3 decision, New York's State Court of Appeals decided that lap dances are not an artistic endeavor intended to promote culture.

While most states name their high court 'supreme,' in New York the supreme court is a lower level courthouse. The state court of appeals is the highest court, meaning Nite Moves's case will likely end here.

The state sales tax exemption doesn't apply to all performances, something the court noted in the opinion. It only exempts those intended to promote culture.

Sports events and amusement parks don't qualify so there's no reason to require exemption for lap dances as a 'performance.'

The three dissenting justices weren't pleased with this logic, reports NBC News.

They noted that under state law, dance is something that is exempted as a cultural event. There's no distinction between 'high brow' and 'low brow' dance which makes the court's distinction somewhat tenuous.

While it's not clear that they thought lap dances should be tax exempt, they may have wanted the legislature to clarify the law.

Still, the word 'culture' is open to interpretation and this case likely clarified to some degree what qualifies as a cultural event.

Just as Supreme Court cases sought to define the subjective term 'obscene,' this case will hopefully serve as a standard for how the phrase 'promote culture' is applied.

That's good for future cases but not so much for Nite Moves. While they can continue selling dances, they'll have to keep charging tax too.

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