A court ruling this week means that all manner of “free speech” is now allowed at the Fremont Street Experience, and that could include everything from handing out information about your favorite charity to panhandling or passing out adult entertainment fliers.
“The ordinances challenged were declared unconstitutional, so they are void,” said Allen Lichtenstein with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern Nevada, which is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit concerning the ordinances.
The ordinances covered handing out unauthorized advertising, vending, and setting up tables or chairs to pass out information. The rules have been tied up in court since 1997, when they were first challenged. The Las Vegas City Council revised the ordinances in 2006, and those were challenged again.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman had not read the ruling and will not comment until he’s done so, a spokesman said. The city attorney’s office is reviewing the decision for a possible appeal. Executives at Fremont Street Experience LLC, which operates the pedestrian mall, only received a copy of the ruling Friday afternoon and did not comment.
If the city does appeal, it could ask that the ordinances stay in place until the appeal is decided, Lichtenstein said, “although my opinion is, based on case law they would have a difficult time getting a stay.”
As a plaintiff in the case, the ACLU argued that it wasn’t able to set up a table and hand out information about the organization in the mall, even though it’s publicly owned space. Now there are plans to do so, although no specifics have been decided.
The Sin City Chamber of Commerce, which includes many adult-oriented businesses among its members, was also listed as a plaintiff. President Loretta Holt said Friday, though, that she didn’t know anything about the lawsuit and that her organization frowns on the risque escort cards that are handed out on the Strip — a practice that Clark County unsuccessfully tried to ban using a similar ordinance.
Until Las Vegas decides to appeal or revisit the ordinances, it’s not a free-for-all. The court recognized that mall authorities have an interest in maintaining the safe and convenient flow of pedestrian traffic, and that there is an interest in protecting the merchants who pay to have stores or kiosks at the Fremont Street Experience.
And Las Vegas has a separate ordinance banning “aggressive” solicitation, so would-be solicitors be warned: Don’t get in anyone’s face, and if they say no to what you’re offering, just let it go.
Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@ reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.