Dancing Costs Extra

Nightclub Owners Back Bill to End the Tax on Dance Floors

Dancing Costs Extra

During a routine tax audit two years ago, Tractor Tavern owner Dan Cowan was hit with a retroactive $220,000 bill from the state's Department of Revenue (DOR) for having a dance floor in his bar. The DOR, which audited several bars in Seattle in 2011 and collected upwards of $300,000, says it has enforced the tax since the 1970s. But longstanding members of the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association (SNMA) say otherwise.

"I've never dealt with it in my life," says Cowan, who managed to get the crippling amount down to $91,000 on appeal. "I'm taking it from my retirement."

A bill introduced in the state senate's Ways and Means Committee last week would prevent nightclubs and bars with dance floors from being slapped with the 9.5 percent tax on ticket sales and cover charges for most live music events. SB 5613, introduced by Senator Ed Murray (D-Seattle), would clarify that the sales tax, which broadly applies to activities like skiing, bowling, and golf, should not be applied to venues that charge covers for "the opportunity to dance."

The bill has only four sponsors and hasn't yet been scheduled for a hearing, which doesn't speak to wide support. And while Republicans usually hate to pass up a tax cut, it could still be viewed as a free pass for Seattle clubs.

That said, Jazzercise businesses successfully lobbied for an exemption several years ago, and the SNMA is teaming up with the Recording Academy and the Washington State Arts Alliance to lobby legislators this year. "I've met with the stakeholders and ask they build a network of businesses outside of Seattle to tell their stories to their legislators," says Murray. "That is the only way it will pass." Local music promoter Dave Meinert thinks he can find support from unlikely allies. "The DOR wants to tax line dancing," he says. "I think we'll get the bipartisan support we need to pass this." recommended


Comments (13) RSS

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I always think back on Gregoires stammering "we need to find new ta...uh uh...revenue streams".
Y'all dem/libs may think you are in power now, but this kind of government is going to toll and tax you out of existence, and then short-change you on the social bennies you've been promised...and then the G will still go bankrupt, and all the real needs will go unfilled.
Got to strangle the serpent, cut off the green blood supply at every turn, before it wraps us up and squeezes all our breath out.
Posted by flatusm on February 21, 2013 at 11:09 AM · Report this
wilbur@work 12
eliminate dumb laws now.
Posted by wilbur@work on February 20, 2013 at 1:28 PM · Report this
11 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
This, the newspaper that rails against tax exemptions and deductions for the rich...

Supporting a tax exemption for the rich...

I thought everybody was supposed to pay their own share? Except apparently the industries supported by the Stranger staff?
Posted by David in Shoreline on February 19, 2013 at 12:46 PM · Report this
9 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
Sounds like another move by Mega Clubs. Interesting all live music had gone to the Megas with Sprinkler Act and now they have created the past due Boogie Tax.

Posted by Casino Royal on February 19, 2013 at 12:57 AM · Report this
@liberty4all - err, because the Stranger covers local issues, and the stories you mentioned are national?
Posted by wabbits on February 16, 2013 at 6:03 PM · Report this
If this actually doesn't come off the books they could go back 4 years on taxes that people didn't collect. That is enough $ to put a large amount of clubs out of business and increase the employment numbers in this city quite a bit.
Posted by Just Some Dick on February 16, 2013 at 5:01 PM · Report this
You know - If you're the owner of a small club that gets slapped with an additional $220,000 in taxes this is a HUGE deal. On another note, maybe our state politicians just need to re-watch Footloose.
Posted by AnikkiV on February 15, 2013 at 3:11 PM · Report this
Dominic Holden 4
@1 & 3) Totally, it's too bad this is the only article we've written all week.
Posted by Dominic Holden on February 13, 2013 at 4:25 PM · Report this
Wrong and you missed the point of my complaint. I think possible scandals at the Vatican and LAPD are a little more important than paying two bucks more to get your groove on.
Posted by liberty4all on February 13, 2013 at 4:14 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 2
1, let me guess: you were born in the 90's, weren't you? Seattle has a long history of suppressing dance spaces and live music. Weird, isn't it? But it's true. This is one of the last hold outs on the books. It's very topical for people who aren't teenagers, who remember how things used to be. Do some research on the TDO.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on February 13, 2013 at 3:33 PM · Report this
With all that has happened in the last week, this is what you choose to cover? What's next, the great chocolate in the peanut butter controversy. Thank lordy this bird cage liner is free.
Posted by liberty4all on February 13, 2013 at 10:34 AM · Report this

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