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Dan Wiessner, Reuters, Published September 09 2012

Hot Topics: New York club says pole dancing is art, for tax purposes

What do the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet and a New York strip club have in common?

According to the owners of Nite Moves, an exotic dance club near Albany, N.Y., enough to qualify pole dancing and private lap dances as tax-exempt artistic performances.

The club on Wednesday posed its argument to the Court of Appeals, the state’s high court, in a bid to fend off a $125,000 tax bill on revenue collected through admission fees and private dances.

“If you saw what these dancers do, you’d be saying, ‘It’s not the Bolshoi, but it’s good,’” Andrew McCullough, who is representing the club, told the court, referring to the famous Moscow-based ballet company.

Under state law, revenue collected from “dramatic or musical arts performances” is not taxable. But the state Tax Department says that because exotic dances are not tightly choreographed, they do not qualify for the exemption.

“If the women kept their clothes on, no one would be coming to this bar for the dance performances,” said Assistant Solicitor General Robert Goldfarb, who argued for the state.

The exemption applies only to establishments that, like Nite Moves, do not serve alcohol, so many strip clubs in New York will not be impacted by the court’s decision.

Nite Moves is trying to fight off taxes levied on admission fees, beverage sales and revenue from private dances that the club collected between 2002 and 2005.

The high court’s decision is expected in the fall.