Seattle’s Archaic “Right To Dance” Tax & How You Can Help!

right to dance

I generally like to take my time with posts on the site, which means that they can take a little longer to get up a lot of the time.  I’ll compose my thoughts and arrange everything “just so,” trying to find some new angle, or to focus intently on whatever other bullshit makes me feel like we are contributing something new to the conversation here on the site. I also like to fancy myself an outsider among a lot of the community in the Seattle area, because of my self-imposed reclusiveness, staying home to raise my child, and not mingling much around town, or having much desire to find myself as part of any select group, whatsoever.  Well, sometimes things are important and urgent enough to just pull your shit together and try and get the word out.  My plate is spilling over right now, but this is one of those times where it’s necessary to put the brakes on everything else and make sure that I’m doing my part, as minor as it may be, to help contribute to an issue that really does affect this community at large; a community that so many of us are apart of, whether we choose to admit it or not, and a community that we might not have even realized that we were a part of with aspects that undeniably affect us all and that we most likely have been taking for granted.  Some very archaic and screwball laws on the books here in our state our threatening to cripple so many of the venues that we frequent in town, by retroactively demanding exorbitant fees associated with outdated regulations regarding, of all things, dancing.  These laws not only affect your ability to see live music, but the ticket price of seeing that music as well.  It all seems pretty fucked up and, if you are someone that cares about this community, or even someone that just cares about yourself, we suggest that you continue to read ahead to figure out the details about what’s really going down and to discover what you, as an individual, can actually do about it.

The following content is taken directly from the Facebook page of Steven SeverinSteven owns Wake Up Productions and Neumos, which books one of the most consistent concert calendars in the city, which you would know if you ever read this site or look at our own suggested events calendar. He is also a driving force/booker behind The City Arts fest, and is involved in various facets of the local community.  But, most of all, he’s been instrumental in helping Monster Fresh and, even myself, personally, out over the years.  Back when Steven was booking for Chop Suey and I was an Evergreen student, he began setting me up with access to shows.  After moving to Seattle, years later, and deciding to create this site on a whim, I blindly contacted the newly-opened Neumos and was surprised to receive a response from Steven shortly thereafter.  He remembered me immediately and began helping to facilitate requests for access, which was tremendous for a fledgling site such as ours, trying to bring a new voice to the community, and one of the things that ultimately helped lead to our ability to get away with covering or accessing a large portion of the things that we are still able to, to this day.  If anything, he’s someone who cares about this city and this community, which he is so deeply involved with, so I kind of feel like a dick in realizing that I still haven’t managed to post anything about this sooner.  One of my major flaws involves over thinking things and how to approach them, while I could be writing/posting them, and, with time sensitivity, this is not the time for it.  We’ve reposted this information on Facebook, but it’s just not enough.  This is also not the time for me to type much of anything further, because this is an urgent and real issues that could be best expressed with Steven Severin‘s own words taken from his personal Facebook account and the follow up information provided by the official Neumos website.  He knows the details related to this issue far better than we do, after all.

Please, do what you can, even if all that you can do is respost this information and get the word out.  Steven isn’t the only one who’s written about this or has been vocal about his concerns related to it–remember, this is a widespread issue– but he does provide the necessary details for those who do wish to take action to get more informed.  We were a little too late in alerting you to contacting your representatives about getting a hearing, but remember, now that the hearing has already taken place PLEASE CONTACT THEM REGARDING THE BILL ITSELF (details at bottom of the page).  Presumptuously speaking for anyone and everyone that’s involved in the Seattle music community, any and all positive efforts are appreciated. Thank you.

FACEBOOK POST: Originally posted on February 17, 2013

This post is very important to read and do what I ask if you’re a friend of mine or a lover of music. There is a reality of clubs like Neumos Seattle being shut down if we don’t take action in the next couple of days.

You need to act and just as importantly share with as many people as you can on your various outlets.

Multiple clubs are facing massive surprise retroactive tax bills for allowing the ‘Opportunity to Dance’ in their venues. The so called ‘Opportunity to Dance tax’ was originally put in place in the 1980s as a tax on aerobics studios, jazzercise classes, as well as some other recreational activity, and is now being expanded RETROACTIVELY and without notice to music venues. These businesses were not warned in advance that they would be taxed. Rather, after paying the taxes they legally owed and were informed of, they are being taxed retroactively for years in which they did not know they were expected to collect and pay this additional sales tax on admissions. I have helped run music venues for over 20 years and this tax has never been applied to music venues in the past. The tax is now so large for some venues, in the hundreds of thousands in some cases, that it is crippling to these businesses, threatening to close some. Even venues who don’t offer any sort of dance classes or so called “dance music” are being taxed because they have open floors, so someone “could” dance.

This tax will also raise ticket prices around 10%, as it will be levied on the total ticket price. So music fans will be paying a new tax.

There is now a new fast-moving effort led by State Senator Ed Murray who has introduced a bill that music supporters want to get onto the floor. Senator Andy Hill (45th District) is the Chair of the Ways & Means Committee and he is the one who can schedule a hearing for SB 5613. He is our gatekeeper to legislative process.

Ways & Means Committee members Kohl-Welles, Murray, and Keiser all sponsored this bill and we are now trying to get the bill on the floor.

Organizations supporting the bill include SNMA, Local 76 Musicians, The Recording Academy, and the WA State Arts Alliance

Here is a link to the bill and some key info: was introduced by Senator Ed Murray on 2/5/13 and will solve this issue.

If you write to your legislator, here’s some info:

– This tax is being inconsistently and unfairly applied to only some music venues, threatening their survival

– Venues owners have tried to work with the DoR (Department of Revenue), but the DoR has been unable to provide clear direction for when an “opportunity to dance” exists or doesn’t exist

– As an example, Neighbors, a club on Capital Hill, was audited twice, the first time the tax never came up, the second audit they were charged retroactive taxes of $300k+

– Other venues have been audited and not charged the tax

– All venues pay many taxes on tickets sales, but not a sales tax. The State happily collects these others taxes and has never told all these venues statewide they have been paying taxes wrong for decades. Suddenly venues who have been obeying the law and paying their taxes are being hit with massive back taxes.

Please encourage the Ways & Means chair (Senator Andy Hill – and the committee members to schedule a hearing for SB 5613, so venues owners can testify. This issue deserves to be heard.

Help save music venues in Washington – PLEASE write now!

Here are the members to contact – please write to those in your district and include your home address:

Find your legislative district here:



*CLICK HERE to link to the original post on*

The ‘Opportunity to Dance Tax’ was originally put in place in the 1980s as a tax on aerobics studios, jazzercise classes and other recreational activities. The tax has never been applied to businesses like ours in previous years, and now multiple clubs throughout Washington are facing severe financial setbacks based on the reconciliation of retroactive tax bills for allowing attendees the ‘opportunity to dance’ in their venues.


There is now a new fast-moving effort led by State Senator Ed Murray who has introduced Bill 5613 that will solve this issue if approved.


Please write Senator Andy Hill and fellow committee members today to share your support for Bill 5613 to pass at the scheduled hearing taking place this Thursday, February 21st.


Find your legislative district here and contact committee members from this list:

We encourage you to join us at the hearing is in Olympia this Thursday, February 21st at 3:00pm.
Senate Hearing Rm 4
J.A. Cherberg Building
298 15th Ave. SW
Olympia, WA 98504



If you write to your legislator, here’s some info:

– This tax is being inconsistently and unfairly applied to only some music venues, threatening their survival

– Venues owners have tried to work with the Department of Revenue,
but the DoR has been unable to provide clear direction for when an “opportunity to dance” exists

– Other venues have been audited and not charged the tax

REMEMBER! The hearing already took place, but please contact your representatives and let them know that you want them to PASS BILL 5613!  Live music and culture benefits this community and is an incredibly important aspect of it.  Don’t assume that everyone else is going to step up this time.  Instead, think about the results if nobody does.  It just takes a little of your time. Please move fast, tomorrow, Friday, March 1st is the last day to reach out and affect this bill!. Thank you.

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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