44 Liquormart, Inc. v. Rhode Island, 517 U. S. 484 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

State Supreme Court adhered to its reasoning in the Pastore case and rejected the argument that the statute neither "directly advanced" the state interest in promoting temperance, nor was "more extensive than necessary to serve that interest" as required by this Court's decision in Central Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Public Serv. Comm'n of N. Y., 447 U. S. 557, 563 (1980). It assumed the existence of other, "perhaps more effective means" of achieving the State's "goal of temperance," but concluded that it was "not unreasonable for the State of Rhode Island to believe that price advertising will result in increased sales of alcoholic beverages generally." Rhode Island Liquor Stores Assn. v. Evening Call Pub. Co., 497 A. 2d, at 336.


Petitioners 44 Liquormart, Inc. (44 Liquormart), and Peoples Super Liquor Stores, Inc. (Peoples), are licensed retailers of alcoholic beverages. Petitioner 44 Liquormart operates a store in Rhode Island and petitioner Peoples operates several stores in Massachusetts that are patronized by Rhode Island residents. Peoples uses alcohol price advertising extensively in Massachusetts, where such advertising is permitted, but Rhode Island newspapers and other media outlets have refused to accept such ads.

Complaints from competitors about an advertisement placed by 44 Liquormart in a Rhode Island newspaper in 1991 generated enforcement proceedings that in turn led to the initiation of this litigation. The advertisement did not state the price of any alcoholic beverages. Indeed, it noted that "State law prohibits advertising liquor prices." The ad did, however, state the low prices at which peanuts, potato chips, and Schweppes mixers were being offered, identify various brands of packaged liquor, and include the word "WOW" in large letters next to pictures of vodka and rum bottles. Based on the conclusion that the implied reference to bargain prices for liquor violated the statutory ban on

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