Europe

Brussels dance tax: Why one club asks customers to stop dancing

  • 29 November 2016
  • From the section Europe
Women dance at a blockade near the Botanique - Kruidtuin metro station in Brussels on December 19, 2013 during a protest Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption This sort of dancing, at a protest in Brussels in 2013, is outdoors, so is fine - indoors, on the other hand...

If you're planning to hit the dance floor in Brussels, beware of a new tax and a strange request.

Few people are aware of it, but a law requiring clubs and music cafes to pay a "dance tax" is being enforced in the capital of the EU.

This is not EU bureaucracy gone mad. It's the homegrown, Belgian kind imposed by the City of Brussels authorities.

For every dancer, establishments have to pay 40 cents (34p/$0.43) per night.

The law was adopted two years ago, but some cafes are only now being audited.

"The tax inspector explained that the tax is based on the number of people dancing," Nicholas Boochie, artistic director of the Bonnefooi venue, told local website Bruzz.

"I first thought it was a joke, but it really does turn out to be true."

At 40 cents per dancer per night, the amount can add up to €2,000 (£1,700) a year, he said, a large sum for a business with a small turnover. It's money he would rather put into hiring more performers.

Image copyright Bonnefooi
Image caption The music cafe where dancing comes at a price

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The city authorities say on their website that clubs and music cafes lead to additional expenses for the city in terms of security and public order, and that the tax is needed to cover some of the extra costs.

Some point out that the law has been in force for some time, and that the Bonnefooi is lucky not to have been charged before.

"Sometimes taxes are applied, but there are not enough officials to collect them," Marc Van Muylders, of Horeca Bruxelles, told Bruzz.

So is there any room for tax avoidance? Nicholas Boochie wondered about the criteria for dancing. "Is throwing your arms in the air dancing?" he asked.

Image copyright Facebook

The cafe is set to pay the bill, but not without a little peaceful protest.

The windows of Bonnefooi now have stickers asking customers not to dance. "Can you stop dancing guys?" a message on the cafe's Facebook page asks, tongue firmly in cheek.

If the answer is no, Mr Boochie is thinking about organising a "dance-protest" against the tax.

Expect some nifty - if costly - footwork.

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