Saturday, December 22, 2007
From the Associated Press: Texas Slaps a Tax on Strip Clubs, by David Koening:
Texas, where strip clubs have given rise to Anna Nicole Smith and many other less-generously endowed performers, is about to make it more expensive to watch a little bump and grind. In what some have dubbed the "pole tax," the Lone Star State will require its 150 or so strip clubs to collect a $5-per-customer levy, with most of the proceeds going to help rape victims. The tax goes into effect on New Year's Day.
Club owners and some of their customers say the money is going to a noble cause, but they argue that the tax infringes on their First Amendment right to freedom of expression, that it will drive some bars out of business and that it unfairly links their industry to sex crimes. ...
The strip clubs are suing to block the tax, which state officials estimate will raise more than $40 million a year, based on liquor sales figures. If accurate, the estimate suggests at least 8 million people a year go to Texas strip clubs to get a lap dance or watch women pole-dance in a G-string.
In their lawsuit, the clubs said nude dancing is protected by the First Amendment and the state can't selectively tax it, even if it is conduct some may find offensive. Besides, they argued, the tax is so broad it could apply to concerts by performers like Madonna or Britney Spears who wear low-cut tops.
Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University, said the Texas tax goes too far. "It seems clear legislators are targeting strip clubs because they're unpopular," Turley said. "Laws like this would expose any unpopular industry to punitive taxes. It could be abortion clinics."