Distilled Spirits Council-Led Coalition Results in Successful Repeal of Baltimore City Alcohol Billboard Ban

A 25-year-old ban on alcohol billboards in Baltimore City has been repealed following an ordinance passed by the City Council and signed into law late December by Mayor Catherine Pugh, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

Under the new sign ordinance, outdoor alcohol advertising will be permitted on any outdoor stationary location except within five hundred (500) linear feet of places of worship, elementary or secondary schools, or playgrounds.

The Council, which led a coalition including the Beer Institute, Clear Channel Communications and MillerCoors, submitted comments to the City raising serious constitutional commercial free speech concerns with the billboard ban in light of several recent Supreme Court decisions.

“We commend the Mayor and the City Council for striking Baltimore’s misguided billboard ban ordinance,” said Distilled Spirits Council Vice President Jay Hibbard, who led the coalition.

“The research is clear – parents and other adults are the most influential factors in a youth’s decision whether or not to drink alcohol, not advertising.  The assertion that alcohol advertising causes underage drinking is based on highly-flawed advocacy-driven ‘research’ that has been refuted by advertising experts in the scientific community.”

Baltimore City, which in 1994 became the first municipality to enact an outdoor alcohol advertising ban, joins a number of cities in striking down prohibitions on alcohol advertisements.  Since 2012, Charlotte, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Boston have all repealed their public transit alcohol advertising bans.