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Monday, January 27, 2014

Court Strikes Down Indianapolis Ordinance Restricting Hours of Adult Bookstores

Strip clubs, adult book stores, and other sexually-oriented businesses receive a great deal of constitutional protection by the courts under the First Amendment. Last week, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals expanded that protection when it struck down the City of Indianapolis' ordinance that restricts the hours of operation for adult businesses.  Specifically, the City's ordinance requires adult bookstores to close between the hours of midnight and 10:00 a.m. each day, and remain closed all day on Sunday.  Annex Books, Inc., the operator of an adult bookstore in Indianapolis, challenged that ordinance as a violation of its First Amendment rights.  The district court had previously upheld the ordinance, finding that the City's justification (fewer armed robberies at or near adult bookstores) was adequate.  

On appeal, however, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals questioned the City's justification, finding it "weak as a statistical matter."  The Court questioned why the regulation only applied to adult bookstores and not other businesses open during these others, such as pharmacies, taverns, and liquor stores.  The Court further stated that the City's obligation is to protect those who choose to visit adult bookstores from robbers, rather than simply close bookstores to reduce that risk. 

The Court concluded that the City failed to justify its hours restriction based on a secondary effects argument because many other businesses (newsstands, convenience stores, and pharmacies) are still permitted to sell reading material during these hours.  In short, the City's regulation was solely based on the content of the adult bookstore's reading materials (i.e., sexually oriented). The ordinance was unconstitutional. Annex Books v. City of Indianapolis (7th Cir. January 24, 2014).


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