By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Nutter Administration’s attempt to slap a tax on lap dances performed at strip clubs falls squarely into the lap of a Common Pleas judge this morning. The city is appealing an earlier ruling that found the dances are not taxable.
Delilah’s, Club Risqué and Cheerleaders were all hit with hefty tax bills after the Revenue Department decided that lap dances performed at the clubs should be subject to the city’s amusement tax. Last October the Tax Review Board shot down the idea.
The board ruled that the amusement tax law is so vague that it can only be reasonably applied to a club’s cover charge, not to back room activities. And the board ruled that the administration could not retroactively impose the tax when it had never done so before.
Today, though, the Nutter Administration continues its fight by appealing the board’s ruling before Common Pleas Judge Ellen Ceisler.
“The Law Department believes it has a strong case,” Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said. “And on behalf of the city’s taxpayers, we want to pursue that case.”
George Bochetto, attorney for two of the three clubs, predicts the city’s appeal will fail:
“The Tax Review Board found the city’s position to be utterly flaccid,” Bochetto said. “And there’s nothing that’s happened since then to change that. They’re doing the appeal largely out of face-saving, rather than any kind of merit. Because there simply is no merit.”
Club Risque and Cheerleaders, represented by Bochetto, faced bills totaling nearly $900,000. Delilah’s was assessed more than $630,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties for lap dances. No immediate ruling is expected at today’s hearing.