by Hannah Dankbar
BBL, Inc. and Butler v. City of Angola
Federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, December 7, 2015
Alva and Sandra Butler own BBL, Inc. which bought a restaurant in Angola, Indiana with plans to convert it to an adult-entertainment venue. Immediately after the purchase the City of Angola amended its zoning ordinance to prohibit this use of the property. BBL, Inc. sued the City claiming a First Amendment violation and requesting a preliminary injunction be issued to prevent enforcement of the ordinance.
As part of the new ordinance Angola requires sexually oriented businesses to locate “at least 750 feet from every residence.” There is no debate that BBL does not meet this requirement.
In regards to the First Amendment claims BBL claimed; (1) the new licensing and zoning amendments violated its right to expressive conduct; and (2) the permit requirement was an impermissible prior restraint on speech.
Angola requested judgment on the applicable legal test (from City of Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc.) in two separate motions. The steps in this analysis require Angola to show: (1) the challenged requirements are aimed at reducing the negative secondary effects of adult-entertainment establishments; (2) the requirements are narrowly tailored to serve to that purpose: and (3) the zoning scheme leaves open reasonable alternative sites for this form of expression.
At the preliminary injunction stage BBL reserved the right to later challenge the factual basis on which Angola adopted its ordinance (whether the city’s evidence of negative secondary effects was sufficient) but presented no such evidence at that time. Tactically this was a mistake because, the city provided an extensive (but boilerplate) catalog of secondary effects research. By not challenging the city’s evidence at that time BBL “radically reduced its chances of obtaining a preliminary injunction.” In fact BBL’s preliminary injunction was not granted by the trial court, and the 7th Circuit concurred.