Judge: Pole Dancing Is Art Qualifying for Sales Tax Exemption

LATHAM, N.Y. — Pole dancing is "no small feat" — and it's also art qualifying for a tax exemption.

That was the bottom line for an administrative law judge, who ruled in favor of Nite Moves, all-nude strip club in Latham, billed as “New York’s Premiere Adult Club in the Capital District.”

Judge Catherine M. Bennett, in a decision last month, determined that cover charges imposed by Nite Moves are not subject to state sales taxes because pole dancing qualifies for the "dramatic arts" sales tax exemption under a state tax law.

Bennett made the ruling after reviewing DVDs of exotic dancers and getting a tutorial from PoleJunkies.com. She also heard testimony from a University of Maryland dance scholar.

"The videos depicted dance routines that incorporated acrobatic pole maneuvers, splits and other patterned repetitions," Bennett ruled. "The pole maneuvers in particular are no small feat to accomplish, and attempting such a performance without the skill and a planned routine of steps could prove dangerous.

"The fact someone may believe that this entertainment is not appropriate for any audience is not the issue," she ruled. "The fact that the dancers remove all or part of their costume during the performances, that the dance routines are seductive in nature and titillation of a patron is the outcome, simply does not render such dance routines as something less than choreographed performances, or remove them from the exception to the general rule of Tax Law §1105(f)(1)."

Bennett cited the submissions by Nite Moves as demonstrating that the strippers were engaged in intricate, choreographed routines that elevated them into the realm of art.

Her decision relieves Nite Moves and its parent company of nearly $129,000 in liability for state sales taxes on cover charges and on the money dancers turned back to the club as its portion of the fees charged for private dances they performed for patrons between December 2002 and August 2005.