Philadelphia Politicians Investigating Lap Dances

The Philadelphia “Tax Review Board”  is conducting in depth hearings about lap dances:

Philadelphia, in its constant search for revenue, wants to draw bucks from a G-string. The city’s Tax Review Board is trying to decide whether a lap dance is an amusement or legitimate theater.

Is a performance over a lap a luxury or an art?

The hearings, scheduled to continue this week, involve sex, shrimp, champagne, sequins, and footwear, but mostly money, about $1.5 million the city is trying to collect from three strip clubs in amusement taxes on heretofore untaxed lap dances.

The five-member board heard disquisitions on “multifocal, immersive theater,” as one expert noted, filled with “manifestly skilled artists, conveying an expressive message through their performance artists.” \

George Bochetto, attorney for Club Risqué and Cheerleaders, posed the philosophical question: “Is there more to a lap dance than just a lap?”

Deputy City Solicitor Marissa O’Connell, who studied ballet, wondered, “Does choreography have to be expressive to be narrative?”

The answers, in case you’re wondering, are yes and no.


Bochetto and the lawyer for Delilah’s argue the city is trying to tax patrons twice, at the door, then at the lap. The city is not a fool. There is serious revenue in lap dances, which range in price from $20 to $600 for an hour in the “champagne court.” That’s where the shrimp come in. Shrimp cocktail is big in the court.


Witnesses have included two “manifestly skilled artists,” a Yale-trained professor and dramaturge, a choreographer, a private investigator, accountants, and club impresarios.

Indeed, it may be the first tax hearing where strippers and accountants shared equal billing. Also, where a strip club was compared to a piano bar, Broadway, Dave & Buster’s, Isadora Duncan, Japanese Kabuki, and English Restoration drama. Constitutional law was invoked. Six-figure tax bills will do that. C

ruel shoes were discussed at length on two occasions, the challenges of ballet pointe shoes vs. vertiginous platform stilettos, and how they both have a tendency to cause bloody feet. As an investigative shoe reporter, I observed that the manifestly skilled artists opted for more sensible shoes than O’Connell, ballerina flats and flip-flops over her towering wedges. Modesty was the order of the hearing. At one point, “Katalina” – creative orthography a hallmark of the nom de strip – demurely tucked a bra strap inside her blouse.

No word on whether any of the members of the Tax Review Board were considering a committee field trip to investigate the situation up close.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Taxes, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. CSK says:

    I’m sure they’ll need to do some hands-on research.

  2. Tyrell says:

    Is this what you would call ” putting the squeeze ” on someone or collecting “back taxes”?

  3. bill says:
  4. Tyrell says:

    @bill: From that article it certainly does seem that what recovery there is has to be on Wall Street only .
    Too many people are having to work two jobs. Too many people have returned to work at jobs that pay less and amount to menial labor. College graduates working along side high school students at the local home supply store or drug store chains.
    Many of the exotic dancers are doing this as a second job to their day job: teachers, nurses, secretaries, legal assistants.

  5. bill says:

    @Tyrell: i like exotic dancers, don’t spend much time with them as it’s like window shopping without being able to try it on!

  6. al-Ameda says:

    I believe that I can the help Philadelphia Tax Review Board members out here. A lap dance is analogous to what senators, congressman, and state legislators do constantly to raise campaign contributions for their re-election efforts.

    There, you’re welcome. Now, have a good time on that ‘field trip,’ ya hear?

  7. Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

    I was unemployed for two months in the summer of 1997. I must be poor!

  8. Moosebreath says:

    Titillating as this is (pun intended), let’s bring some facts into this:

    “From smoking to drinking to gambling, taxes are levied on all sorts of activities that a substantial portion of society finds distasteful. And it’s the city’s job – one it hasn’t always done well – to see to it that every tax is paid according to the law. Lap-dance taxes aren’t the city’s most palatable or important revenue stream, but going after them suggests a healthy trend toward more vigorous and uniform municipal tax collection.

    City officials argue that the fees patrons pay strippers to undulate atop them are subject to the 5 percent amusement tax, which applies to ballgames, concerts, movies, and other diversions. They say an audit found that three strip clubs owe about $1.5 million.”

    After all of the shots taken here and elsewhere at Detroit for allowing its finances to deteriorate, one would think that another city actually enforcing its tax laws in an even-handed manner to help keep it financially stable would be applauded.