Ban on adult-establishment billboards struck down
GEORGIA–A law prohibiting all off-site outdoor advertising by businesses offering adult entertainment violates the establishments’ free speech rights, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled in early November.
The court, in its unanimous decision, struck down a 1996 amendment to the Georgia Outdoor Advertising Control Act of 1971, which prohibits outdoor advertising for commercial establishments that feature nudity as part of their business in areas other than immediately outside of the business. The court ruled that the prohibition was not narrowly tailored enough to serve the governmental interest in protecting those affected by off-site advertising featuring nudity from “devaluation of property” and the creation of “traffic hazards by diverting the attention of drivers.”
The court found that the activity at Cafe Erotica, a business that serves food and offers adult entertainment sometimes involving partial or total nudity, was lawful and non-misleading, but that the legislation did advance a legitimate state interest — protection of residents from potential harm caused by the advertisements.
But the court concluded that the regulation was more extensive than necessary to advance the government’s interest, and thus was unconstitutional. The court held that by banning any outdoor advertising of a commercial establishment where nudity is exhibited “prohibits even a worded sign advertising the location of a business,” which violates the commercial free speech rights of such establishments.
The decision affirmed a lower court’s order enjoining officials from enforcing the legislation against Cafe Erotica and similar businesses. (Georgia v. Cafe Erotica, Inc.; Business’ counsel: Thomas Maddox, Jr., Tucker)