They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but can you judge a beer by its label? Beer becomes a first amendment issue. @JayeMarie, beer lover & future lawyer helps breakdown the legal side of this beer issue.
The Breakdown: Flying Dog filed suit in federal court this week against the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) with the request that the federal judge overturn the state-wide ban on one of its top selling beers, Raging Bitch, and award Flying Dog damages for the loss of sales due to the ban.
All out of state beer manufacturers must apply to the MLCC for a license to sell their product within the state of Michigan. Failure to do so may result in criminal charges.
Flying Dog first applied for a license to sell Raging Bitch in 2009 but was turned down. The brewery appealed only to be turned down again because according to the MLLC, the brew’s name, label, and statement on the back “contains such language deemed detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the general public.”
Flying Dog’s newly filed complaint alleges their “core First Amendment” rights were violated when the MLCC banned the sale of Raging Bitch because the MLCC has “taken it upon themselves to control not merely alcoholic beverages, but speech as well.”
On his company’s blog, Jim Caruso, CEO or Flying Dog said he believes it is about a lot more than a mere beer label, “We believe not only in freedom of speech and artistic expression for both businesses and individuals, but also in the individual’s fundamental right to choose or reject books, art, literature, artisanal craft beer, and other forms of artistic expression based on their personal preferences.”
Why it’s concerning: With the rapid growth in the craft brewing, many brewers have already, or will face this problem when they look to expand their business. With greater nationwide distribution, each individual state’s alcohol licensing board determines what is acceptable. This is exactly why the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise has joined Flying Dog in their case. In a statement on Flying Dog’s blog, lan Gottlieb, president of the center said, “The issues raised have a profound impact on the right to freely engage in the marketplace.”
Raging Bitch: The 20th anniversary Belgian Style IPA
To see the full complaint filed by Flying Dog: http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/03/29/Beer.pdf
Special Thanks to Jacklyn Johnston for the legal insight!