Brewery Sues North Carolina Alcohol Commission for Banning its Beer Because Label is “in Bad Taste”

Brewery Sues North Carolina Alcohol Commission for Banning its Beer Because Label is “in Bad Taste”

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The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABC) denied the state-wide sale and distribution of Flying Dog Brewery’s bottled Freezin’ Season Winter Ale citing an administrative rule that First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza and Flying Dog Brewery call unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment in the lawsuit they filed against the ABC.

The agency denied the sale and distribution of Freezin’ Season because the label is “in bad taste.”

The ABC controls the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption, and possession of all alcoholic beverages in North Carolina.

In court documents, Randazza argues that the ABC’s censorship is currently injuring Flying Dog Brewery because it cannot accept orders for the beer and if relief is not granted, it will continue to be deprived of its Constitutional rights and to have its speech unlawfully stifled, ultimately resulting in a loss of sales for the brewery.

Two days before the first hearing in the case, the ABC reversed its denial and subsequently, argued to the court that the case is moot and should be dismissed. However, Randazza argued to the contrary. Without a decision from the court on the constitutionality of the administrative rule that the agency cited for its initial denial, there is nothing stopping the agency from reversing the approval if the case is dismissed for mootness.

Randazza said, “This lawsuit is not just about selling beer. This regulation is so vague and unconstitutional, that Ralph Steadman, in his studio today, cannot know what he should create and not create for Flying Dog, lest the ABC deem it to be “inappropriate” or “undignified” or “in bad taste.” This strikes at the heart of the First Amendment.” 

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