By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Nutter administration’s controversial decision to start taxing lap dances at gentleman’s clubs will be challenged this week by the clubs at the start of what could be a lengthy legal battle.
Attorney George Bochetto says his clients, Club Risque and Cheerleaders, suddenly got slapped with bills for back taxes for back room activities.
“Out of the blue, they then got a bill for 400, 500 thousand dollars,” he says, “imposing this amusement tax on lap dances.”
The mayor’s spokesman Mark McDonald says city attorneys believe lap dances should be subject to the longstanding city amusement tax.
“It’s the considered opinion of the Law Department and the Revenue Department that this tax applies appropriately, in this case,” McDonald says. “The city views this as a taxable activity.”
But Bochetto argues that the amusement tax is already imposed on the cover charge to get in the clubs.
“It does not apply to activities once you’re already in a place of amusement,” Bochetto says, “and have already paid a cover charge and an amusement tax on the cover charge.”
And Bochetto says this could set a dangerous precedent:
“If you can impose a tax on a lap dance,” he says, “you can impose a tax on any activity once you are in a place of amusement.”
He and an attorney for Delilah’s will challenge the mayor’s move Tuesday before the Tax Review Board.
“If they can get away with it,” Bochetto says, “then every other gentleman’s club in the territory is going to get the same bad news.”
And he says huge issues are at stake in their challenge.
“Gentlemen’s clubs are constitutionally protected,” says Bochetto. “It is a form of free speech.”