Wrigley Field is an urban ballpark. Unlike most stadiums in the U.S., the home of the Chicago Cubs is not surrounded by acres of parking lots.
Sitting on just three acres of land, the ballpark opens immediately onto city streets packed with retail establishments, and is just one short block away from a busy train station.
Chicago enacted the Adjacent-Sidewalks Ordinance in 2006 to reduce congestion caused by peddlers on the sidewalks surrounding Wrigley Field, which become so heavily trafficked during games that many people end up walking in the streets.
Left Field Media, publisher of the magazine Chicago Baseball, challenged the ordinance in federal court after its editor was ticketed for selling the magazine on the sidewalk outside the stadium.
The lower court denied Left Field a preliminary injunction against the ordinance, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed Tuesday.
“Because the ordinance is neutral with respect to speech (both the fact of speech and the content of speech), the City need not bear any burden beyond supplying a rational basis – and the need to curtail activity that delays entry and induces crowds to spill into the streets is more than enough,” Judge Frank Easterbrook said, writing for the three-judge panel. (Emphasis in original.)
The panel also discussed Chicago’s peddlers license ordinance as a potential unconstitutional burden. The ordinance requires peddlers to apply for a personal license, at a cost of $100 per year.
“The $100 fee for a peddler’s license, even if it covers no more than the City’s costs of administering the pro-gram, is much higher per hour worked for a publication such as Chicago Baseball,” Easterbrook said.
An applicant also cannot get a peddler’s license if they owe any parking tickets, back taxes, or child support.
“Cutting these people off from a source of income may be counterproductive – that’s not a First Amendment problem, of course, but it leaves us wondering just what this ordinance is expected to accomplish that will justify its potential effect on fringe publications such as Chicago Baseball,” the 12-page opinion says. “Yet at the same time as it cuts down the supply of labor on which Chicago Baseball relies, the City of Chicago undoubtedly has among its own employees hundreds of persons who have unpaid parking tickets or are behind on taxes or child support.”
Newspaper sellers are exempt from the peddler’s license requirement, but it is not clear whether Chicago police will treat Chicago Baseball as a newspaper or not. Easterbrook said the matter must be remanded for further fact-finding on whether the peddler’s license ordinance cramps Left Field’s business model.
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