Nevada officials clear way for pianists to return to restaurants

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The live sounds of Gershwin can once again fill the Eiffel Tower Restaurant after state officials figured out a way to spare diners from a new entertainment tax.

The Las Vegas Strip restaurant had laid off four pianists in late August after determining their music would subject patrons to the 10 percent tax approved by the Legislature in July.

State gambling officials said Thursday they have drafted guidelines that, if approved, could allow the pianists to return to work. Casino-based restaurants with musicians who provide "ambience or background" music for patrons would be exempt from the entertainment tax.

"We went and looked at the legislative intent and how the conduct of background music played in to other exemptions to the tax," said Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander. "If you're providing purely ambient music, then the tax should not be applicable."

Arthur and Linda Schroeck were both part-time pianists at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant when they were let go because of the tax.

"We worked very hard to try to get the piano jobs back because for two of the players those jobs were their bread and butter," said Arthur Schroeck. "We were also worried about it becoming a rolling stone with musicians at other properties being fired."

The Schroecks wrote a letter to the Tax Commission in August after they were terminated, saying the expectation that the tax would be passed on to restaurant patrons cost them their jobs.

"The real important thing here is when a restaurant wants to have background or ambient music for atmosphere, the live performer can still provide that," said Frank Leone, president of the Musicians Local 369. "We don't want the state of Nevada forcing restaurants to hire tape recorders."

The language of the new entertainment tax contained in Senate Bill 8 and passed by the Legislature on July 21 replaced an existing tax that required casino restaurants and lounges to pay the levy if they featured live singing.

But it removed the exemption for those establishments in which pianists, harpists or other musicians play in the background while customers enjoy food and drink.

"It was never our intention to include ambient music in the entertainment tax," said Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas. "We hope the Eiffel Tower Restaurant puts the musicians back to work."


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