SIGNIFICANCE: BUEHRLE V. CITY OF KEY WEST
The city of Key West, Florida stopped Brad Buehrle from opening a tattoo shop in its historic district. An ordinance capped the number of tattoo shops in this area because the city claimed they don’t fit in with the historic district’s character. The city also feared that “rash tourists will obtain regrettable tattoos, leading to negative association with Key West,” which would hurt tourism. Buehrle argued that the ordinance limited his freedom to express himself through tattooing.
The court ruled that the act of tattooing is a form of artistic expression protected by the First Amendment. The protection of artistic expression covers a series of acts and people involved in producing, distributing, and accessing artwork, ranging from the artist who paints a piece to the gallery owner who displays it to the buyer who purchases it to the patrons who view it. As the creator of tattoos, Buehrle falls under this protection. Furthermore, the city failed to meets its burden of showing that banning the shop would serve the significant government interest of preserving the historic district. The ordinance did not represent a reasonable time, place, and manner restriction, as no substantial evidence suggested that the historic district would deteriorate with the presence of another tattoo shop.