Monday, April 12, 2010

'Bottoms Up' Bottoms Out: Court Okays Liquor Ad Limits

Some typical alcoholic beverages.Image via Wikipedia
The First Amendment rights of The Cavalier Daily and The Collegiate Daily were not abridged by alcohol advetisement restrictions imposed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has ruled.

By a 2-1 vote, the 4th Circuit ruled in Educational Media Co. at Virginia Tech, Inc. et al. v. Susan R. Swecker, Commissioner, Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission et al, (Case No. 08-1798) that Alcohol Beverage Control Board ("ABCB") regulations limiting alcohol advertisements ( 3 Va. Admin. Code secs. 5-20-40(A) & (B)(3)) are not an unconstitutional restraint on commercial speech. The appellate court reversed the decision of the trial court where lawyers for the collegiate newspapers argued successfully that the restrictions both infringed on their free speech rights and did not deter alcohol consumption by underaged college students.  According to the plaintiffs, the ABCB cost the newspapers more than $30,000 in lost ad revenues annually through the regulations, which prohibit the use of the term "happy hour," ban references to specific cocktails, and forbid beer, wine and mixed drink ads in student-operated publications except within the context of a restaurant ad.

Writing for the majority, Judge Dennis W. Shedd concluded the ABCB restriction "is narrowly tailored to serve the board's interest of establishing a comprehensive scheme attacking the problem of underage and dangerous drinking by college students." 

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