WI city shoots down restrictions on alcohol, tobacco ads


By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

LODI, Wis. — Score one for Lodi business owners and the First Amendment.

BUSINESSES REJOICE: The Lodi Planning Commission has rejected an ordinance that would severely restrict alcohol and tobacco advertisements in the city.

The city’s planning commission Tuesday unanimously rejected an ordinance prohibiting alcohol and tobacco advertisements within 500 feet of schools, playgrounds, parks, recreation facilities, child-care centers and libraries.

Because of that action, the measure — whose First Amendment implications were first reported by Wisconsin Reporter — will not make its way to the Lodi Common Council, according to the Portage Daily Register.

“The votes are not there,” Mayor Paul Fisk, author of the proposal, told the Portage newspaper.

Commission members emphatically shot down the ordinance in large part because of concerns over First Amendment rights.

Lodi Alderman Rog Severson, who spoke against the law change at Tuesday’s public hearing, told Wisconsin Reporter on Wednesday he objected to the ordinance’s potential to curb free speech.

Severson says he doesn’t want to see city taxpayers spend their money on legal bills.

“I don’t like overreach of a government, from the top down, from the president on down to Lodi,” he said. “I think it’s overreach of a government doing this type of thing where we have no business doing that.”

Thomas C. Kamenick, associate counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, thinks the ordinance wouldn’t have much of a chance of holding up in court.

The Lorillard Tobacco Co. won a U.S. Supreme Court case in 2001 after Massachusetts implemented a ban on tobacco advertisements and sales within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.

The court found the regulation on tobacco advertising was too broad and restricted the company’s First Amendment rights.

Severson said the ordinance — which would have been the first of its kind in the state — had the potential to harm the local economy.

“If you do pass this ordinance, you should put up signs on all four entrances of the city: Welcome to Lodi. No business is welcome,” bar and restaurant owner Bill Hamre said at Tuesday’s public hearing.

Fisk told Wisconsin Reporter last week his motivation for the ban was starting the process of creating a new culture in Lodi by keeping alcohol and tobacco advertising from minors.

Contact Adam Tobias at atobias@watchdog.org or follow him on Twitter @Scoop_Tobias

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