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Judge rules restaurants, clubs can advertise BYOB status

November 23, 2018

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s restaurants and clubs can advertise that they let patrons bring their own wine and beer without fear of running afoul of state law, after a federal judge’s ruling this week found the law unconstitutional.

An Atlantic City strip club had filed suit against the state, the city and its police department last year and claimed the statute violated its First Amendment right to free speech.

New Jersey’s law states that restaurants that don’t have liquor licenses can’t advertise inside or outside their establishments that they are B.Y.O.B., even if patrons are permitted to bring wine and beer and drink them inside the establishment.

Violating the statute constitutes a disorderly persons offense.

The state argued the law aims to promote the health and safety of New Jersey residents through temperance.

But in his ruling, U.S. District Judge Joseph Rodriguez wrote that while the state has the authority to regulate conduct related to the alcoholic beverage industry — and B.Y.O.B. establishments already must comply with a variety of state regulations — that authority doesn’t necessarily extend to related speech.

“While the State may, and does, regulate conduct regarding alcoholic beverages, it has not shown that regulating the speech concerning that conduct furthers a governmental interest sufficient to override the constitutional rights at stake in this case,” he wrote.

A spokesman for the state attorney general’s office declined to comment on the ruling.

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