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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ordinance Banning Minors From Bar Does Not Violate First Amendment

The City of Fort Myers, Florida has an ordinance in place prohibiting anyone under the age of 21 from entering or remaining in bars and taverns in the City. The Indigo Room (a bar) hosted a petition drive sponsored by the "Occupy Fort Myers" movement. A 19-year old entered the Indigo Room to sign a petition and was issued a citation for violation of the City ordinance. Both the minor and the Indigo Room sued the City, claiming that the ordinance violated their First Amendment right to free speech. The plaintiffs argued that the ordinance had a chilling effect on the exercise of political speech and that the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague. The district court denied the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, and they appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 11th Circuit affirmed in The Indigo Room, Inc. v. City of Fort Myers (March 1, 2013).
First, the Court of Appeals held that the ordinance does not act as a prior restraint of speech. In fact, the ordinance does not regulate speech at all, and instead regulates the admittance of minors into bars and taverns.
Second, the Court of Appeals held that the ordinance was not unconstitutionally vague. The ordinance provides adequate notice of what conduct is prohibited (i.e., minors cannot enter bars and taverns). The fact that the ordinance exempts restaurants from the ban does not render the ordinance vague, where restaurants are clearly defined by the ordinance. The ordinance was not facially vague because persons of reasonable intelligence can derive a core meaning from the ordinance - that persons under the age of 21 are not permitted in bars and taverns. 
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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