City Sought to Outlaw Outdoor Alcohol Ads

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WASHINGTON ( -- A U.S. Appeals court today rejected Cleveland's attempt to revive an ordinance that bars alcohol marketers from advertising on the city's billboards because they could be seen by children.

The three-judge panel for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court decision that Cleveland's 1998 ordinance violated free-speech protections and was already restricted under state law, which allows for outdoor liquor ads in certain cases.

The panel cited, in part, the lower court's reasoning that the ordinance amounted to "nearly a complete ban on the communication of truthful information about legal products to adult consumers." The case was brought by Eller Media, which is now Clear Channel Outdoor.

Three-page ruling
An ad group today said the court's three-page ruling is likely to raise further questions as to whether other attempts to limit alcohol and tobacco ads, some being pushed in Congress, could raise similar constitutionality issues.

Other cities in the late '90s had approved banning alcohol ads from billboards, especially those close to schools or parks. Most of those cities abandoned their local ordinances after the U.S. Supreme Court, in several recent rulings about similar ad curbs, said a government's ban on advertising to help children had to demonstrate that the ban was likely to achieve the desired effect.

"Cleveland was the only city that took up the challenge to try to provide evidence," said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertising. "The court decision shows these cases face insurmountable constitutional barriers."

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