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Strip Club Fees Will Continue

The state of Texas still expects strip clubs to continue paying the so-called “pole tax,” even while the state appeals a court ruling that the fee is unconstitutional. Jim Bell explains.


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This controversy started last year when the legislature voted to require topless clubs to charge a $5 dollar a person cover charge for the state, which was expected to bring in about $40 million dollars a year in new revenue. The money was designated to services for victims of sexual assault and health insurance for the poor.

The Texas Entertainment Association, which represents more than half the topless clubs in Texas, sued the state on constitutional grounds. Last month, an Austin judge agreed. The judge ruled that the fee is an illegal tax on a form of “expression that, while politically unpopular, is still protected by the first amendment.”

Club owners thought they had won, and that they could stop collecting the cover charge, but the State Controller doesn’t agree. While state attorneys prepare to appeal the ruling, the State Controller is sending letters to topless club owners telling them the fee is still in force. The letters say the clubs’ monthly reports and payments are due Monday, and a five percent penalty will be added if they’re not remitted on time.

Meanwhile, the strip clubs say they’ll keep fighting the fee. The lawyer for the clubs says it’s a grave injustice for the state to continue assessing fees it knows are unconstitutional.