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Pennsylvania Wants to Adopt “Pole” Tax

Pennsylvania- Strip club patrons in Pennsylvania will have to fork over $5 to the government every time they enter one of the establishments under legislation a Bucks County state representative plans to introduce in the coming weeks.

Republican Paul Clymer [pictured] had aimed to bring forward the so-called “pole tax” in March. He was forced to rework it after the Texas law the proposal is based on was declared unconstitutional.

“I’m in full confidence we’ve made the proper refinements for this to pass constitutional muster,” said Clymer, whose 145th district covers 11 municipalities in Upper Bucks.

Still, the Association of Club Executives — “ACE” — panned the plan, and Clymer anticipates a legal challenge in the Keystone State.

“When you arbitrarily place a tax on one industry or the patrons of that industry it’s probably unconstitutional,” said Angelina Spencer, executive director of ACE, a national organization representing adult entertainment clubs.

Clymer’s proposal calls for customers of nude and topless dancing bars to pay $5 in addition to the price of admission. The money will be used to support the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Clymer said that’s a proper place for the money to go, claiming strip clubs engender social ills such as sexual assault and domestic violence.

“These clubs bring the problems of prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse and questionable characters,” said Clymer. “They have no redeeming value for communities.”

Strip club executives roar at such statements, citing studies that purport their clubs do not bring negative “secondary” effects to neighborhoods.

“He’s trying to make a correlation between social problems and adult entertainment where the correlation does not exist,” said Spencer.

Estimates on how much money the act would raise annually were not yet available. The details of how it would be enforced are vague too, but Clymer said compliance checks, similar to those done to ensure bars are only serving patrons 21 and older, might be used.

In Texas, lawmakers imposed a $5-per-patron fee on exotic dancing bars in 2007 to raise more than $40 million annually for anti-sexual-assault programs and healthcare for the uninsured.

Saying the tax infringed on First Amendment rights of freedom of expression, an Austin judge declared the pole tax unconstitutional in March.

Judge Scott H. Jenkins wrote that indigent healthcare had no connection to strip joints.

As the decision is under appeal, the Lone Star State continues to collect the fee, though a court filing calls for that to cease.

“This is by no means over,” said Thomas Kelley, a spokesman for the Texas Attorney General’s office, which supports the pole tax.

Clymer is motivated to introduce the legislation following controversy over the all-nude entertainment of Coyotes Show Bar in Milford, one of the municipalities he represents in traditionally conservative Upper Bucks.

Coyotes’ attorney Glenn McGogney believes Clymer will find it difficult to pass the act. “From what I’ve heard he’s going to have a tough time finding support for this,” McGogney said.

Coyotes opened without proper permits from the township in December, claiming it didn’t need them because local zoning unconstitutionally restricts strip bars. The club filed a federal lawsuit against Milford, but tabled it after the two parties struck a deal that saw Coyotes pursue local permits.

The township granted permission for the club to operate in April, provided it meet nearly 35 special conditions. Saying the restrictions effectively barred them from doing business, Coyotes principals appealed the ruling in Bucks County Court. The club continues to operate as the parties await a court date.

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