CHICAGO-Four outdoor advertising companies may team with the local ad federation to fight a Chicago ordinance banning billboards and posters for cigarettes and alcohol.
Eller Media, Outdoor Systems, Whiteco Outdoor Advertising and Universal Outdoor have formed a coalition called Federation of Advertising. The group's attorney is discussing ways to battle the ban with representatives of the Chicago Advertising Federation.
A lawsuit is likely. The argument is expected to be that the city of Chicago cannot prove the restriction on outdoor ads will advance its goal of reducing drinking and smoking among minors, said Bob Weber, an attorney hired by the quartet of outdoor companies.
If a lawsuit is filed, there may be a request for a preliminary injunction against the ordinance based on the "incalculable" loss to cigarette and tobacco companies because of the ban, Weber said. A party deemed to be adversely affected by a law must have potential for redress, which is not possible if a dollar figure cannot be placed on the loss, Weber said.
Chicago's City Council last week voted 44-1 for the ban, which allows outdoor liquor and tobacco advertising only at or on select sites, including the city's sporting fields and public transit vehicles.
"We consider the ordinance an abridgement of free speech in violation of the First Amendment," said Stephen Durchslag, an attorney for the Chicago Advertising Federation.
A similar ban in Baltimore was upheld by an appellate court; the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. The outdoor advocates are pinning their argument on the Supreme Court decision in 44 Liquor Mart vs. Rhode Island, which struck down a state ban on price advertising for alcohol, arguing that such a ban couldn't be proven to stop minors from drinking, Weber said.