WASHINGTON (CN) – New sightseeing regulations in the District of Columbia violate the free-speech rights of tour guides by requiring them to be licensed and by singling out Segway tours, a pair of tour guides claim in Federal Court.
Plaintiffs Tonia Edwards and Bill Main are the owners of Segs in the City, a company that takes tourists around the nation’s capital on Segways.
They say new regulations make it illegal for “anyone who (for a fee) drives a person or group of people around the District of Columbia while discussing passing points of interest” without first obtaining a license that costs about $200.
“The new regulations also specifically single out tours where customers operate ‘self-balancing personal transport vehicles’ as requiring a license,” the tour guides claim.
The regulations went into effect on July 16, the middle of what Edwards and Main call their busy season. They say they typically hire about 15 part-time guides during the summer, but their guides are usually part-time students who are not licensed tour guides.
“If Plaintiffs continue to operate their business but do not obtain sightseeing-tour-guide licenses, they face a threat of fines and even jail,” the guides claim.
The new regulations subject violators to fines of $300 or 90 days of jail time, according to the lawsuit.
“The licensing scheme imposed by Defendant’s regulations imposes special burdens on Plaintiffs because of the content of their speech,” the guides claim.
“Without a license from Defendant, Plaintiffs will be unable to meaningfully share their opinions, thoughts, and knowledge about Washington, D.C., with their paying customers,” the lawsuit states.
Edwards and Main are suing the district for allegedly violating their free speech rights. They also seek an order blocking the city from enforcing the regulations.
They are represented by William Mellor of the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Va.