U.S. Justices Won't Hear Hustler Club's Exemption Case

U.S. Justices Won't Hear Hustler Club's Exemption Case
Rhett Pardon

WASHINGTON — The nation’s highest court has declined to review a petition from the owner of Larry Flynt's Hustler Club in New York, which asked justices to decide whether the state unconstitutionally denied the club a musical performance exemption from its “place of amusement” admission tax. 

The U.S. Supreme Court did not comment on the recent denial.

Operators of the club, CMSG Restaurant Group, had argued that New York's application of the four percent amusement tax to the club and its withholding of the musical performance tax exemption amounted to content-based discrimination.

CMSG also claimed that, in violation of the 1st and 14th Amendments, they weren’t able to get a full hearing on their claims in either its administrative process  or the state courts.

CMSG argued the case “squarely presents the question of whether a tax collector may function as an art critic and withhold exceptions based on his or her aesthetic preferences.”

Operators further said that the state went too far in rulings that deemed the performances “sexual fantasy, not dance” and subject to the tax.

A five-judge panel of the New York state Supreme Court earlier ruled statutes that place an excise tax on admissions to adult entertainment clubs are constitutional,

They rejected charges by CMSG that the taxes singled out striptease performances, in violation of free speech rights.

CMSG petitioned for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in July, arguing New York unconstitutionally denied the club’s attempt to qualify for the exemption.