Anyone who has attended a game at Wrigley Field (and is familiar with the narrow streets surrounding Wrigley) will understand today's case.
Left Field Media LLC publishes Chicago Baseball, a magazine that produces 4 issues over the course of a baseball season. Vendors hired by Left Field sell copies of the magazine outside Wrigley Field before Chicago Cub home games. Last year, on the day of the Cubs' home opener, Left Field's editor was selling magazines at the corner of Clark & Addison Streets. A police officer told the editor he had to move across the street because he was violating the City's Adjacent-Sidewalks Ordinance. That ordinance prohibits all peddling on streets adjacent to Wrigley.
Left Field sued the City, claiming that the Adjacent-Sidewalks Ordinance violates the First Amendment. The district court denied Left Field's request for an injunction against enforcement of the ordinance, finding that the ordinance was justified because the streets adjacent to Wrigley are extremely narrow, and when crowded cause people to walk in the streets. Left Field appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Left Field LLC v. City of Chicago (7th Cir. May 23, 2016).
The 7th Circuit first determined that the Adjacent-Sidewalks Ordinance did not regulate speech; instead, it regulates peddling. As a result, the ordinance is "content-neutral" under the USSCT's recent decision in Reed v. Gilbert (the sign case). Under a content-neutral analysis, the City only needs to show a "rational basis" for the ordinance. The court held that the City satisfied this by stating that the reason behind the ordinance was to curtail peddler activity that delays entry into the stadium and induces crowds to spill into the streets. So, the district court's denial of Left Field's request for an injunction was upheld.
Left Field had also challenged the City's peddlers' license ordinance, which the 7th Circuit found more problematic. The court expressed concerns with requiring individual peddlers to obtain a license, and pay a $100 fee for that license. The court also questioned the City's rationale for the license program (control of fraud; payment of sales taxes), finding neither to be a valid justification for licensing peddlers. However, the court did not rule on this issue, finding that it was not yet ripe since neither Left Field or its vendors had ever applied for one of these street vendor licenses.
For those of you who haven't been to Wrigley, the following is an aerial photograph taken directly from the 7th Circuit's opinion.
Personal Note: The Cubs are facing the Cardinals today at Busch stadium. In my house, we happen to be evenly split between Cub and Cardinal fans, but on this blog, Cubs over Cardinals every day of the week. Go Cubs!