ALBANY – Pole dance routines by exotic dancers in an Albany-area juice bar are an expression of artistic merit, but the private couch dances performed for individual patrons are not, a state tax department administrative law judge has ruled.

The distinction drawn by ALJ Joseph Pinto Jr. is an important one for the outcome of the state Division of Taxation’s latest attempt to collect sales taxes from the Nite Moves club on couch dances. Of the $4.9 million in sales reported in a state audit of Nite Moves between 2005 and 2010, just over $3 million came from the private dances performed in small rooms off the main stage of the nightspot.