Philly lap dance tax shot down in court

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 (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks)

(Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks)

Philadelphia city government has lost another bid to collect a tax on lap dances.

A Common Pleas Court judge Wednesday quickly dismissed the city’s appeal of a previous ruling.

The entire hearing lasted under an hour, with Judge Ellen Ceisler finding the city has no right to impose its amusement tax on activities inside “gentlemen’s clubs,” including lap dances.

“The ordinance, as it’s currently worded, doesn’t cover lap dances,” said George Bochetto, an attorney representing two of the clubs. “If the city wants to tax lap dances, they can go to City Council ask City Council to amend the ordinance, and then they can start imposing a tax on a lap dance They could start imposing taxes on piano playing, anything they want.”

The city was seeking to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes from the clubs.

Attorney Stephen Howard represents Deliah’s, another club.

“I think the courts have essentially borne out our conclusion all along that the city never really had a good case, and the case shouldn’t have gone this far,” said attorney Stephen Howard, who represents Deliah’s Den. “We are really, really happy that the judge saw what occurred at the tax review board level and really didn’t take anything to heart in the city’s brief.”

City Solicitor Shelly Smith says “City taxpayers pay a tax on every amusement they purchase, Phillies tickets, concert tickets.  The lap dance is a separate that is purchashed once they are inside the club so we believe we are legally justified for a separate tax on the separate lap dance that the patron purchases once they are inside.”

Smith says they have not decided whether to appeal to Commonwealth Court, or to ask City Council to clarify the enabling bill to specifically include lap dances.

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