A group of small music venues in the city of Chicago have come under fire after Cook County began efforts to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes due to their lack of “live cultural performances,” according to recent reports from Resident Advisor and the Chicago Reader. The city has claimed these venues should not be able to avoid the three percent tax on cover and ticket fees that other live music venues have the benefit of ignoring.

People like Pat Doerr, president of the Hospitality Business Association of Chicago, and Bruce Finkelman, managing partner of popular venue Beauty Bar, have said that they’ve had to equip their venues with lawyers in order to face the years worth of amusement taxes, some totaling up to $200,000.

What makes the incident especially damning for genres like electronic music, rock, grunge and rap is their distance from the county’s formal definition of “fine art”: “any of the disciplines which are commonly regarded as part of the fine arts, such as live theater, music, opera, drama, comedy, ballet, modern or traditional dance, and book or poetry readings.”

A spokesperson for Chicago venues Smart Bar and Metro described the county’s outdated perspective on more modern movements in music.

“These recent county audits take an exceptionally dated view of modern music and DJ performances. This grave misunderstanding of DJ music’s cultural importance as a fine art will probably be resolved in the venues’ favor. But until then, this fight will divert venues’ time and money from artist development and growing modern forms of music in and around Chicago.”

Some, like CFO of 16″ on Center David Giron, believe that the county is attempting to use small music venues as a way to compensate for its lack of funding. If an amusement tax is enforced on such intimate nightlife establishments, Dancing Astronaut points out that many could quickly go out of business.


H/T: Dancing Astronaut

Sources: Chicago Reader, Resident Advisor