Small Music Venues Are Cook County's Latest Target

Last week we caught word that Cook County was attempting to recover back taxes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from small music venues in the city. Cook County Code Section 74-392 carves out an exception to the County's 3% amusement tax that some of these small venues arguably fall in, and have been operating under for years, some cases decades. The code says specifically, 

...The tax imposed in subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to or be imposed upon: The admission fees to witness in person, live theatrical, live musical or other live cultural performances that take place in any auditorium, theater or other space in the County, whose maximum capacity, including all balconies and other sections, is not more than 750 persons.
— Cook County Amusement Tax Section 74-392

Seems pretty clear, live music in a 750 person room or less, you're in the clear. Right? Well the code defines "live theatrical, live musical or other live cultural performances" as follows: 

Live theatrical, live musical or other live cultural performance means a live performance in 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. The term does not include such amusements as athletic events, races, or performances conducted at adult entertainment cabarets (as defined in Section 14.2.1 of the Cook County Zoning Ordinance).
— Cook County Amusement Tax Section 74-391

This morning, Anita Richardson of the Department of Administrative Hearings is of the opinion that venues that book rap, rock n roll, and electronic acts should not be exempt from the amusement tax because these genres of music do not fall within the definition of "fine arts", as she is interpreting the Code to require. I disagree with this interpretation, and so do plenty owner's of small venues across the city. The language in the above text seems to list music as an example of "a discipline commonly regarded as part of the fine arts". There is no restriction on the term music, it simply lists the broad term among other examples of fine arts that fall under the exemption. 

Several small business owners including representatives from Beauty Bar and Evil Olive will get to present evidence to justify their tax exemption on October 17 in an effort to persuade the seemingly already decided Anita Richardson. Testimony from music professionals and a musicologist are expected in favor of the small venues.

We'll be sure to update you as this unfolds. Hopefully there will still be some cool venues to enjoy once this is over.