NEW ORLEANS — Larry Flynt's Hustler Club has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a ruling that the strip club's placement of 48 Hustler magazine covers on its Bourbon Street club violate rules about signs in the French Quarter.
According to an article in The Times-Picayune, the suit comes shortly after the New Orleans City Council denied the club's appeal of the ruling made by the Vieux Carre Commission (VCC), which found that the magazine covers were part of the club's signage and violates rules prohibiting excessive signage. The club's attorney, Michelle Cumberland, argued before the city council that the magazine covers qualify as art and are protected by the First Amendment.
The VCC regulates preservation in the French Quarter and it claimed the Hustler Club’s images violated the prohibition against excessive signage. In April, the club was ordered to remove all 48 magazine covers from its windows.
The club appealed the citation and lost, but the club's attorney brought the matter before the New Orleans City Council in August, arguing the magazine covers are art and therefore constitutionally protected as free speech.
According to a July 14 Times-Picayune article, a member of the city planning staff said the covers are signs because listed under each cover is a club's special or service, some with prices. But the VCC argued that the signs violate guidelines that prohibit placing them in a manner that conceals an architectural feature of a building.
“The commission also does not allow ‘placing or painting a sign to obstruct the view into a story through a storefront window or glazing,’" according to a July 6 letter from VCC director Bryan Block to the city council.
The VCC argued that the business was originally cited in 2013, but the signs were never removed.
The lawsuit filed by the Hustler Club makes many of the same arguments about why the signs should remain in place, claiming no architectural features are obstructed and the signs offer prices and services, designating it to be a sign.
According to the suit, the signs have been displayed on the building since 1993. They argue that since the VCC did not object to the signs within the 10-year window required under the law, the signs should be considered legal.
“(The signs) are not distinguishable from displays found on the doors of the T-shirt shops neighboring the property or the windows of antique or art dealers on Royal Street," the defense said in court documents. “Removing the signs is a violation of the club's First Amendment rights.”