44 Liquormart, Inc. V Rhode Island

517 U.S. 484(1996)


Rhode Island law prohibited advertisement of the price of alcoholic beverages 'in any manner whatsoever,' except by tags or signs inside liquor stores. The state courts had several times upheld the law against First Amendment challenge, finding that the law reasonably served the state goal of promoting 'temperance.' Two high-volume discount liquor retailers challenged the law under the free speech clause in federal court. The Rhode Island Liquor Stores Association intervened on behalf of the state. The district court invalidated the law, finding 'that Rhode Island's off-premises liquor price advertising ban has no significant impact on levels of alcoholic consumption in Rhode Island.' The court of appeals reversed, finding 'inherent merit' in Rhode Island's argument that competitive price advertising would lower prices and that lower prices would produce more sales, increasing the consumption of alcohol. The Supreme Court unanimously reversed, but as indicated below the Court divided into several camps on the reasoning.