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Local strip club says exotic dancing is art and should be tax exempt

Reported by: Katherine Underwood

Videographer: M. Jackson
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Updated: 9/06/2012 6:29 am
New York’s highest court got an interesting case Wednesday.

Is exotic dancing at a strip club a form of art and therefore exempt from state sales tax?

The state is seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes from Nite Moves in Colonie, but the owner is arguing that his dancers are not just strippers but artistic performers.

After the initial audit back in 2005, Owner Stephen Dick, Jr. increased admission and private dance fees by eight percent.

Since then, he says his business has taken a huge hit.

Dick and his attorney tell us they expect to come out of this victorious; then Nite Moves will slash prices, get back the money they already paid to the state, and set a precedent for the industry.

“We say, ‘Hey, we are, in fact, an art form.’ It’s quite likely to be an Olympic sport in the upcoming future,” explained Nite Moves Attorney Andrew McCullough.

McCullough and Dick made their case in front of the New York State Court of Appeals Wednesday.    

“It seems odd to me the legislature would say we are going to tax improvised dance and not choreographed dance,” said one of the judges during the hearing.

McCullough replied, “That's exactly our point.”

McCullough says the club should qualify for the state sales tax exemption that covers “dramatic or musical art performances” that are “choreographed.”

“People will say well typically, a topless dancer stands here and does this, and that's not dancing,” McCullough said as he bounced up and down. “Well, these girls don't do that.”

He continued saying the girls at Nite Moves are talented dancers who perform choreographed routines.

The majority of local residents we asked told us exotic dancing cannot be considered art.

But when we asked a local exotic dancing instructor, she was quick to explain her answer.

“I think it is an art. It takes skill, it takes practice, and it takes training,” said Vaughn Ernst of Kinderhook Lake.

Vaughn has been teaching pole, chair, and lap dancing for five years.

“If a person were sitting here, you would go down the side of the chair,” she explained as she showed us a choreographed lap dance routine.

The State is arguing that Nite Moves can't prove their dancers perform choreographed numbers.

However, Vaughn tells us most exotic dancers typically have their routine memorized.

“If the definition of art is choreography, then yeah, it is an art form, and if an art form can be exempt from tax, then absolutely,” said Larry Viscio of Albany.

Nite Moves relied on testimony from a cultural anthropologist who specializes in exotic dance.

She said the dances at Nite Moves certainly meet state standards.

The court is expected to rule on this sometime next month.

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