On Tuesday, June 28, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission reversed its decision banning Flying Dog Brewery’s Raging Bitch Belgian-Style India Pale Ale from the Great Lakes State. The move came three weeks after Flying Dog’s first hearing on the case before the federal court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Flying Dog not only argued that the original decision by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission violated the company’s First Amendment rights, but also sought a preliminary injunction to lift enforcement of the Commission’s ban while waiting for a final judgment from the court. Michigan reversed its decision to ban Raging Bitch in the state before the Court ruled on Flying Dog’s request for an injunction.
Previously, the Liquor Commission declared that Flying Dog’s speech – in the form of the name “Raging Bitch” and accompanying label imagery and text by renowned artist Ralph Steadman – endangered public safety and was harmful to any adult who might read the beer’s name on a restaurant menu.
“The Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s involuntary reversal of opinion is a victory for craft beer,” Flying Dog CEO and General Partner Jim Caruso said. “Now, the great people of Michigan are no longer denied access to Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA, Flying Dog’s top-selling beer. But the fight for First Amendment rights in Michigan continues to rage on.”
Though the Michigan Liquor Control Commission has now approved the sale of Raging Bitch in the state, Flying Dog has no interest in dropping the First Amendment lawsuit. With the support of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and the law firm of Gura & Possessky, Flying Dog originally filed suit in U.S. District Court on March 25 not only to overturn the Michigan Liquor Control Commission’s regulation banning Raging Bitch, but also to deem their ability to ban any beer label that they find offensive unconstitutional. Additionally, the suit seeks to recover damages from the loss of Flying Dog sales under the rule.
“We’re glad that the people of Michigan are now free to decide for themselves whether Flying Dog’s beer labels are, like the beer, in good taste. Our lawsuit forced the Liquor Commissioners to see at least some of the light. But the litigation won’t end until the Commissioners accept responsibility for the damage they’ve caused by violating the First Amendment,” Flying Dog’s attorney Alan Gura, partner at Gura & Possessky, said.The controversy began in September 2009, when Flying Dog Brewery applied for a license to sell Raging Bitch, the company’s 20th anniversary commemorative beer, in the state of Michigan. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission barred the sale of Raging Bitch, claiming that the beer’s label is “detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare.”
Those interested can follow details and updates of the case, including relevant case documents like the actual motion for preliminary injunction, the argument brief, and other exhibits, by visiting Flying Dog’s news blog at www.flyingdogales.com.