April 7 (UPI) – A Florida video game store owner is challenging a city law that forbids him from showing inflatable characters outside of his store.
Authorities in the Orange Park suburb of Jacksonville told Scott Fischer, owner of Gone Broke Gaming, that he must remove the 10-foot inflatable Super Mario that once stood outside his store or face a $ 100 fine for every remaining day. cited a law prohibiting business owners from installing portable displays, such as the giant Mario, that convey a message regarding their business.
“Running a small business hasn’t been easy from the start,” Fischer said. “Then, when the city told me that they were going to cut some of my profits because of the lack of my advertising, it kind of hurt.”
Fischer said that after receiving approval from his landlord and nearby businesses in July, he placed a large character outside of his store to attract business.
“Because our store is so hard to see, we thought a giant inflatable Mario would help bring attention to our store,” he said. “We put on Mario, and the number of pedestrians increased literally in the blink of an eye.”
Fisher received backing from the Justice Institute and filed a federal lawsuit against Orange Park, claiming the law violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against certain types of speech.
“I could have a Santa Claus, an elf, or another seasonal inflatable boat, but since Mario is related to my business, I cannot get it,” Fischer said.
Fischer also said that the loss of the inflatable showcase damaged his business as shoppers and passers-by no longer stop at the store to take pictures with Mario.
“When we had to demolish it, I could tell that the number of people decreased and there were a number of phone calls asking where our location had increased significantly,” he said.