Chicago Strip Clubs Triumph in Tax Exemption Ruling

CHICAGO – An Illinois appellate court ruled Friday that Chicago and Cook County cannot impose amusement taxes upon strip clubs that other small venues are not required to pay, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Club owner Pooh-Bah Enterprises sued the city and county in 2001 for unconstitutionally discriminating against adult entertainment in ordinances that granted other small live performance venues an exemption from ticket sales taxes applied to strip clubs.

Pooh-Bah, which oversees VIP’s, formerly known as Crazy Horse Too, lost the suit in 2005. The ruling Friday by the 1st District Appellate Court reverses that decision.

Judge Margaret O’Mara Frossard wrote for the three-judge appellate panel that the city and county’s 1999 ordinances — which exempted all small venues but “adult entertainment cabarets” from an 8 percent city tax and 3 percent county tax on tickets — were “content-based regulations on speech that do not serve a compelling state interest and, therefore, violate the 1st Amendment.”

The new ruling states that only in rare, compelling circumstances can the government tax businesses differently based on the content of their speech or message.