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Taxing opportunities to dance: We don’t want Seattle to turn into ‘Footloose’ town

KIRO Radio host Luke Burbank doesn't want to see Seattle turn into the town in Footloose, that didn't allow dancing. (Image courtesy Paramount Pictures)

Giving patrons the opportunity to dance, and not paying a tax on it, is getting a number of Washington state businesses in trouble with the Department of Revenue.

Seattle’s Century Ballroom, on Capitol Hill, may have to close its doors if it can’t come up with $90,000 in back taxes the state says it owes for an “opportunity to dance” tax.

Steven Severin, the owner of Neumos, a music venue on Capitol Hill, tells KIRO Radio’s Luke Burbank they’re still unsure whether folks dancing at live music shows at their venue means they’re responsible for the tax.

“We don’t know,” says Severin. “Going forward we’re a little worried to find out. Just because of what has already happened at live music venues where they’ve been hit with this tax.”

Severin has been running clubs in Seattle for 15 years and says he’d never heard of this tax until a couple places were hit with big dollar figures the state said they owed.

For those businesses that are being held accountable to pay on the opportunity to dance tax, the costs are significant. It was determined the Century Ballroom owed $250,000 in back taxes. The state and the club settled on taking it down to $90,000, but the Century Ballroom is still on the hook for that amount.

“It’s far too much for them to come up with,” says Severin.

The Century Ballroom so far has raised $7,000 and is hosting a fundraiser this Saturday.

The Department of Revenue says businesses are responsible to know those taxes that they are responsible for.

But Severin says this is the first time he and other business owners he knows have heard of it, after years and years of dealings with the DOR.

“We don’t know exactly why it kicked in,” says Severin. “I think that’s why Senator Ed Murray stepped in and said, hey this is a little ridiculous, the nightlife is a huge contributor about why people move to Seattle, let’s not try and work on putting these places out of business, which is essentially what it could do if they got their way.”

Senator Ed Murray has proposed SB 5613 to eliminate the opportunity to dance tax which he tells Q13 is hitting nightlife businesses unfairly.

Severin is asking people who frequent businesses they enjoy that may offer what would qualify as an “opportunity to dance” to contact their senator before the bill’s hearing on Thursday.

“What you need to do is you need to email your senator and tell them that you want them to approve the dance tax bill – very key, by tomorrow, Thursday at noon,” says Severin.

“The list of clubs affected by it is pretty much all the clubs I go to,” says host Luke Burbank. “We don’t want this to turn into ‘Footloose’ town you guys.”

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