Victory for Raging Bitch, but our First Amendment Fight with Michigan Rages On
On Tuesday, June 28, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission reversed its decision banning Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA from the Great Lakes State.
The move came three weeks after our first hearing on the case before the federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We not only argued that the original decision by the Commission violated our First Amendment rights, but also sought a preliminary injunction to lift enforcement of the Commission’s ban while waiting for a final judgment from the court. Michigan reversed its decision to ban Raging Bitch in the state before the Court ruled on our request for an injunction.
Previously, the Commission declared that our speech – in the form of the name “Raging Bitch” and accompanying label imagery and text by renowned artist Ralph Steadman – endangered public safety and was harmful to any adult who might read the beer’s name on a restaurant menu.
“The Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s involuntary reversal of opinion is a victory for craft beer,” Flying Dog CEO and General Partner Jim Caruso said. “Now, the great people of Michigan are no longer denied access to Raging Bitch, Flying Dog’s top-selling beer. But the fight for First Amendment rights in Michigan continues to rage on.”
Though the Michigan Liquor Control Commission has now approved the sale of Raging Bitch in the state, we have no interest in dropping the First Amendment lawsuit. With the support of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and the law firm of Gura & Possessky, we originally filed suit in U.S. District Court on March 25 not only to overturn the Commission’s regulation banning Raging Bitch, but also to deem their ability to ban any beer label that they find offensive unconstitutional. Additionally, the suit seeks to recover damages from the loss of sales under the rule.
“We’re glad that the people of Michigan are now free to decide for themselves whether Flying Dog’s beer labels are, like the beer, in good taste. Our lawsuit forced the Liquor Commissioners to see at least some of the light. But the litigation won’t end until the Commissioners accept responsibility for the damage they’ve caused by violating the First Amendment,” our attorney Alan Gura, partner at Gura & Possessky, said.
The controversy began in September 2009, when we applied for a license to sell Raging Bitch, then our 20th anniversary commemorative beer, in the state of Michigan. The Commission then barred the sale of Raging Bitch, claiming that the beer’s label is “detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.”