Not content with this tax

The Illinois Supreme Court delivered this opinion on Thursday. What’s it about?

In 2001, plaintiff, Pooh-Bah Enterprises, Inc., brought suit, in the circuit court of Cook County, for declaratory and injunctive relief against the County. In its complaint, plaintiff alleged that it operates an establishment under the licensed name “Crazy Horse Too.” The seating capacity of plaintiff’s establishment is less than 750 persons. At the establishment, scantily clad (but not completely nude) women give live performances of exotic dancing. Plaintiff stated that it had claimed the small venue exemption because the live performances at its establishment qualify as being “live theatrical, live musical, or other live cultural performances.” Plaintiff claimed that its entertainment qualified either as “modern or traditional dance” or “other live cultural performances.” The County denied plaintiff the exemption on the basis that the dance performances are “performances conducted at adult entertainment cabarets.” Plaintiff conceded that its dancers display “specified anatomical areas” as defined in the zoning ordinance. Plaintiff argued that the amusement tax ordinance violated the first and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution because it discriminated on the basis of content.

The opening paragraph of the opinion gives away the ending: “At issue is whether the small venue exemptions to the amusement tax ordinances of defendants Cook County and the City of Chicago violate the first amendment to the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend. I) or the free speech clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §4). We hold that they do not.”

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