Missouri Law Banning Truthful Advertising on Alcohol Prices Is Found Unconstitutional – Riverfront Times (blog)

SHUTTERSTOCK/MARTINS PORMANIS For decades, the byzantine rules governing how and where alcohol can be advertised in Missouri have given retailers a massive headache. And that doesn’t even begin to get at the hassles experienced by some media outlets.

“I get calls all the time from stations on the borders of the state,” says Mark Gordon, president and CEO of the Missouri Broadcasters Association. “‘Can I mention this discount price, or say that?’ And they can’t. They’re competing with stations across state lines, and they don’t get a level playing field.”

It’s not just that Missouri’s two biggest cities are situated on its borders, or even that many small ones are too. (The Show Me State has eight neighboring states — tied with Tennessee for the most in the U.S.) It’s also that the Internet, which is vacuuming up an increased share of advertising dollars, doesn’t play by the same rules. “Social media already does it,” Gordon says. “Groupon already does it.”

And now traditional forms of media can do it too. Last week, U.S. District Judge Douglas Harpool issued a ruling in favor of the broadcasters association and its allies, agreeing that the state’s longtime ban on truthful advertising of alcohol prices is unconstitutional. So is the Missouri law that limits the ways alcohol wholesalers and distillers can advertise via retail stores.

The ruling followed a trial in February, and before that, a legal battle that raged for more than five years. Thompson Coburn attorneys Mark Sableman and Mike Nepple, who represent the broadcast association, originally sought summary judgment, only to have the case dismissed and the state granted an early victory. But they appealed, and the Eighth Circuit reversed the dismissal last year, sending the case back to the lower court. Last week’s ruling gave them an outright win — both

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