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Ruling Could Enforce Collection of Pole Tax in Strip Clubs

After a legal fight waged for more than five years, it looks like strip-club-going might in fact cost a little more here in Houston, the Mecca of strip clubs (can we really say that?).

After the state supreme court ruled against a challenge from the Texas Entertainment Association that said the $5 pole tax was limiting First Amendment rights, a lower court has now ruled against another challenge saying the tax went against the Texas Constitution.

The reason, said TEA lawyers, was that the tax was an occupation tax, but the appeals court ruled it an excise tax. As it goes, the $5 fee is charged to every customer and then paid by the clubs to the state every quarter. At least that was the idea since 2007.

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According to a report on Bloomberg.com:

The tax, expected to generate about $30 million per year starting in 2008, was intended to fund sexual-assault programs such as prevention and services for victims, and other health-care initiatives. So far it has generated about $17.2 million, R.J. DeSilva, a spokesman for [Texas Comptroller Susan Combs], said in an e-mail.

"If the clubs had been paying it all along, they wouldn't be in a bind now," said Annette Burrhus-Clay, executive director of the Austin-based Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, which represents 80 rape-crisis centers. "Most patrons plan to spend more than $5 before they go into a club."

If you're one of those types who like to "make it rain" at the strip club with a wad of singles, just know that the little money stack might be a little smaller now if clubs are following the rules. There's a possibility the ruling last week could be appealed to the state supreme court.

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