SPRINGFIELD — Adult film star Stormy Daniels, surrounded by dancers from strip clubs in Springfield and the Metro East area, stood in front of the Capitol on Friday to rail against the state’s so-called “pole tax,” calling it “sexist and wrong.”
In a two-minute speech given to a crowd of about 20 people standing in front of the Abraham Lincoln statue at Second Street and Capitol Avenue, Daniels said the tax forces strip clubs to raise prices, which drives away customers and “ultimately takes money out of the G-strings of hardworking dancers.”
The Live Adult Entertainment Surcharge Act, or “pole tax” as it is commonly called, went into effect in 2013 and imposes a surcharge on strip clubs that serve alcohol or permit alcohol consumption. According to the law, the surcharge amounts to $3 per patron or a flat annual amount ranging between $5,000 and $25,000 depending on a strip club’s annual receipts.
Daniels noted the surcharge was put in place to help fund rape crisis centers. And while she says that’s admirable, the fact that it’s being done through a tax on adult entertainers “is rich with irony.”
“Funding rape crisis centers by taxing strippers, mostly young women often young mothers, is simply cowardice and wrong,” she said.
Daniels said there is no evidence linking strip clubs and strippers to rapes.
“There is, however, lots of evidence linking clergy, especially the Catholic Church, to rape, so where’s their tax?” she asked.
The women behind Daniels, who work at Deja Vu, the adult entertainment club in Springfield, and The Larry Flynt Hustler Club in Washington Park, Illinois, were holding up signs that read “Fix real crime, not strip clubs,” “We are not victims” and “Keep your laws off my body.”
Springfield resident Dean West came to the Capitol as “a silent protester.” He said he doesn’t go to strip clubs but is against the pole tax all the same.
“I don’t like it when the state of Illinois decides that they get to say what’s a sin and what’s not,” he said. “It just so happens that I think this probably is a sin, but who are they to say so? They should be taxing themselves on their own lottery, which is a sin.”
“Stormy Daniels and anyone else has the right to sin in peace,” he added.
Deja Vu does not have to pay the surcharge because the club does not serve alcohol.
But other clubs in the same corporation as Deja Vu do have to pay it, said Duane Patterson, general manager of the Springfield club.
“It affects them, so it affects me,” he said outside of the Capitol.
Because the tax is on places that serve alcohol, Patterson said he doesn’t see why strip clubs are targeted.
“If you’re going to do something like this, and it’s going to be about alcohol, then why not bars, why not restaurants and why not casinos?,” he said. “If you did those three right there, the money per person would kill. You would make the money back enormously.”
Vee Chitalu, a dancer at the Hustler Club, said she doesn’t like the correlation of strip clubs with rape.
“This job empowers us and gets us to where we can get on our own two feet and we don’t have to rely on somebody,” she said.
Carrie Ward, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said she was aware of Friday’s protest, and the coalition did try earlier in the week to reach out to Daniels and her representatives.
Ward said she wanted to make them aware of what the surcharge does.
Money collected from the tax helps centers provide prevention and education services for all kinds of audiences, Ward said. The money from the tax also goes to crisis intervention services, including responding to survivors of sexual assault in hospitals.
“We really have found these funds to be very helpful,” Ward said. “Rape crisis centers never have all the money they need. These dollars are appreciated. They are being appropriated correctly, allocated correctly and used correctly.”
The Department of Human Services receives the money from the tax, which then goes to the coalition, which allocates the money to rape crisis centers across the state. While the coalition is supposed to get $600,000 a year from the tax, they sometimes get less because of what Ward says are struggles getting all establishments to pay the surcharge.
Daniels departed the Capitol immediately after her brief remarks. It was her first stop in Springfield for the day. She was scheduled to do an afternoon book signing at Deja Vu before performing there in the evening.