ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CN) — Siding with a New Jersey strip club, a federal judge called it unconstitutional Monday for the Garden State to forbid bars from advertising that they let patrons bring their own beer.
“Allowing BYOB advertising would concern a lawful activity and not be misleading,” U.S. District Judge Joseph Rodriguez said. “The state has neither asserted a substantial interest in regulating the speech at issue, nor shown that the regulation directly advances the governmental interest asserted, and is not more extensive than necessary to serve that interest.”
Stiletto, a strip club near the Atlantic City boardwalk, brought its complaint over the ban last year. Though it forbids clientele from drinking liquor or mixed drinks in the club, where it otherwise sells nonalcoholic beverages, it said it was worried about encouraging customers to bring their own wine or beer because it would risk prosecution under the state’s BYOB law.
Back in December 2017, Rodriguez granted an injunction against the law to maintain the status quo and he struck down the law Monday after hearing oral arguments back in September on dueling motions for summary judgment.
“New Jersey’s statutory ban on BYOB advertising places a content-based restriction on speech that fails strict scrutiny because it is not supported by a compelling government interest,” the 13-page ruling states.
Neither Atlantic City nor Stiletto’s attorney, Stephen Holtzman with the firm Holtzman & McClain, have returned requests for comment.
Rodriguez rejected New Jersey’s argument that it has strong interest in regulating alcoholic beverages.
“The Supreme Court has made clear, however, specifically with respect to the advertisement of alcoholic beverages, that banning speech is different from and more intrusive than banning conduct,” the ruling states.
To wrap up the case, Rodriguez ordered a proposed permanent injunction to remove the language of the statue that says a bars cannot advertise its BYOB feature outside or inside the premises.
“While the state may, and does, regulate conduct regarding alcoholic beverages, it has not shown that regulating the speech concerning that conduct furthers a governmental interest sufficient to override the constitutional rights at stake in this case,” Rodriguez wrote.
Stiletto brought the lawsuit through its corporate entity, GJJM Enterprises.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.