Calling the city's amusement tax “vague and inconsistent,” the board decided the tax could not expand beyond the clubs' admission fees to the activities inside, including lap dances, said Nancy Kammerdeiner, review board head.
"Both the ordinance and its application by the city are vague and inconsistent, thus necessitating a ruling in favor of the taxpayers," Kammerdeiner said. "It is well settled that any ambiguities in a taxing statute are to be construed in favor of the taxpayer and against the taxing authority."
Attorney George Bochetto, who represented Club Risqué and Cheerleaders, two of three establishments in the case, said the tax wouldn't just have affected erotic dancers if upheld.
"This is really a victory for every commercial establishment in Philadelphia that has a door charge that conducts any kind of interior activity -- piano bars, pool halls, karaoke institutions -- all of these places of entertainment are all benefitted by this ruling," Bochetto said.
Club Risqué and Cheerleaders, represented by Bochetto, faced bills totaling nearly $900,000. Delilah’s, represented by attorney Stephen Howard, was billed for more than $630,000 in back taxes, interest, and penalties for lap dances.
Bochetto said that the administration can't reinterpret existing taxes however they please.
"If the city wants to impose an amusement tax on this kind of interior activity, that is a legislative function. That’s something that City Council needs to take up, debate. If they want to pass an ordinance like that, then they can do so," Bochetto said.
The city has the right to appeal the decision. A spokesperson for Mayor Nutter said officials were reviewing the TRB ruling.
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