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The city that rejected a bar called “Buck Foston” just got slapped with a $1.5 million jury award

May 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

Varitek Arod

We wrote about this back in 2011A New Brunswick, New Jersey businessman sued the city in federal court, claiming that the mayor held up approval of his liquor license for a sports bar because he didn’t like the bar’s proposed name — Buck Foston. The claim asserted that the mayor was a Red Sox fan and illegally singled out the bar in violation of the First Amendment.

The owner of Buck Foston just won big. Specifically, after six days of evidence, the jury sided with the bar owner, calling the license denial an outrageous First Amendment violation and awarding him $1.5 million.  This, from the Post is the best part:

. . . the jury heard testimony that the mayor had met with Blatterfein to ask him to change the name, which he allegedly called “vulgar.” During the conversation, Blatterfein asked Cahill why it’s OK to have a Cluck-U Chicken restaurant in town but not a bar called Buck Foston’s, court papers state.

Cahill responded that the name was fine because “chickens cluck,” according to the lawsuit.

I don’t remember the “chickens cluck” exception from my Constitutional law class, but I suppose I might’ve skipped class that day.

Viva democracy. And viva New Jersey businessmen for having the right to name their probably gross bars whatever silly name they want to. That’s what America is all about.

  1. renaado - May 1, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    That pick will truly be embedded in my mind forever.

  2. mundial8 - May 1, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Light bulb! I’m putting a bar in Columbus called Muck Fichigan.

    • renaado - May 1, 2014 at 1:11 PM

      Good luck to that man ;-) .

    • raysfan1 - May 1, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      Lansing too–although there’s an on-line group that already sells t-shirts, etc, with that phrase in both Michigan State and Ohio State colors.

    • doctorofsmuganomics - May 1, 2014 at 1:49 PM

      I thumbed you down on principle, because fellow michiganders may kill me if I didn’t and I fear for my life. Hope you understand

    • mortalkondek - May 1, 2014 at 4:04 PM

      I hope it burns to the ground

    • jm91rs - May 1, 2014 at 8:51 PM

      We’ll I tried to post something about a michigan shirt I saw once “buck the —-eyes” but the censors stopped it. Oh well, probably for the best!

    • philliesblow - May 1, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      Ann Arbor is still a whore.

  3. [citation needed] fka COPO - May 1, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    Chicken’s Cluck, and
    Boston Fu oh wait

    • historiophiliac - May 1, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      So, you think it should be Bucks Soston instead? Language police!

      • historiophiliac - May 1, 2014 at 2:27 PM

        Derp. I guess that would be Soston Bucks then….

        historio can’t burn. :(

  4. danrizzle - May 1, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    Perhaps this for-real First Amendment violation will provide clarity to all those who think freedom of speech applies anywhere other than where government is involved.

    • Kevin S. - May 1, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      The FCC’s regulations violate the First Amendment constantly.

      • tedwmoore - May 1, 2014 at 4:18 PM

        Just a little confused: are you replying here because you believe that the FCC is non-governmental?

      • Kevin S. - May 1, 2014 at 7:16 PM

        No, I believe they are a governmental agency that regularly issues restrictions based more on moral prudity (no, that’s not a word) than the guarantees of the First Amendment.

    • asimonetti88 - May 1, 2014 at 7:05 PM

      You mean there isn’t a parallel between this guy and Donald Sterling?

    • apkyletexas - May 1, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      Government was involved here. The mayor turned down the permit because of the name. Classic first amendment case, in fact.

      • jjschiller - May 2, 2014 at 2:40 AM

        That’s what he’s saying, that this is a for-real first amendment violation. He hopes this example of a real, genuine violation of “Freedom of Speech” will show people what “repressing freedom of speech” actually means, ie, the government has to be the one doing the repressing. This, as opposed to yelling “What about freedom of speech!?!?!!1@!” when someone is banned from commenting on a blog, or fired from a job for saying racist things, or, and this is the most maddeningly stupid one, when someone is just criticized publicly for being stupid in public.

  5. Detroit Michael - May 1, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    $1.5M in damages when the bar owner could have picked another less vulgar name? Seems steep to me.

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 1, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      “Those protesters could have picked a less annoying spot to protest”

      • gothapotamus90210 - May 1, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        The gov’t can regulate where your free speech takes place, tons of precedent on that.

      • historiophiliac - May 1, 2014 at 1:51 PM

        Yeah, like the government doesn’t let you camp out on the Mall in protest because it really is concerned with the grass. Who’s park?

        Trust me, when I was working downtown and Sarah Palin was speaking, the “protest zone” was drawn entirely for her comfort — not to make it easier to protest.

      • tedwmoore - May 1, 2014 at 4:20 PM

        Yeah, this is covered above, but time, place and manner restrictions are common and accepted by the courts.

    • senioreditor2 - May 1, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      How about the revenue he lost with the delay? Court costs and not to mention punishing the douche who denied it.

      • Detroit Michael - May 1, 2014 at 2:07 PM

        The bar owners weren’t denied the opportunity to operate a bar, just the opportunity for 3 years or so, to opperate a bar with the “Buck Foston” name.

        If some of it was specifically labeled as punitive damages, then that would be understandable to me. Compensatory damages of $1.5M is hard for me to imagine. (I’m not disagreeing with the decision.)

      • cardinalcrazy - May 1, 2014 at 3:47 PM

        The bar owners were denied a liquor license. I would say selling liquor is a significant portion of their profits. So effectively there were denied the opportunity to operate a bar if they can’t sell liquor!

  6. Kevin S. - May 1, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Huh, I never thought of Cluck-U as a play on Eff You. Since they’re mostly located near college towns and clearly cater to broke-ass college kids (no frills, deep-fried grease sponges), I just figured it was a play on short-hand college naming conventions.

  7. Old Gator - May 1, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    That’s it. I’m going to call my new singles club “The Wet Spot.”

    • jerze2387 - May 1, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      ..named for the front of your pants

      • gothapotamus90210 - May 1, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        if peeing your pants is cool, consider me miles davis

      • renaado - May 1, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        Lmao…

    • Old Gator - May 1, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      I suppose I set myself up for that. Ten points – except that your confusion of discharges indicates your daddy never explained something to you….

      • Old Gator - May 1, 2014 at 5:13 PM

        Your inability to see the confusion – is it hereditary or acquired by inactivity?

      • historiophiliac - May 1, 2014 at 11:04 PM

        Ahem

      • raysfan1 - May 1, 2014 at 11:14 PM

        Sometimes it’s disturbing when people fail to get a joke. In this case, it’s even funnier.

      • jerze2387 - May 2, 2014 at 10:28 AM

        My initial response before i changed it referenced the clubs success “depending” on Tony Siragusa being spokesman

  8. chadjones27 - May 1, 2014 at 1:34 PM

    Does this all those kids who were told to turn their “Muck The Fets” t-shirts inside out at baseball games can sue?

    • pilonflats - May 1, 2014 at 1:39 PM

      no.

      • chadjones27 - May 1, 2014 at 1:41 PM

        why not?

      • gothapotamus90210 - May 1, 2014 at 1:47 PM

        chad – the mets aren’t a government entity.

      • moogro - May 1, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        Private property.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - May 1, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[1]

        Bolded the important part

      • jwbiii - May 1, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        COPO, I was surprised to see that this wound up in a federal court. New Jersey’s Constitution has a similar provision

        ARTICLE I RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES

        6. Every person may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right. No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press

        but how is a New Jersey mayor denying a liquor license a federal matter?

      • Francisco (FC) - May 1, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        Didn’t the Federal government prohibit liquor at some point?

      • jwbiii - May 1, 2014 at 3:19 PM

        Chris Volstad is playing in Korea now. Doesn’t apply anymore.

      • chadjones27 - May 1, 2014 at 3:56 PM

        I still don’t see how preventing someone from naming their bar “Buck Foston” is a violation of 1st Amendment Rights. It’s clearly a play on F-ck Boston and I’m sure the liquor license was denied because of that. It’s a clever name, and I wish the owner the best, but I don’t see how he won.
        My Muck The Fets comment was more of a joke about how far could one take it. I understand why you can’t wear those shirts.

    • cohnjusack - May 1, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      I don’t know…my mom once threatened to the school I went to for wearing this T-shirt

      Keeping in mind kids were fully allowed to wear PRO-religion t-shirts. The schooled backed down on that one pretty quickly, thus keeping outcast teenager’s dream to piss off as many people as possible for little reason.

  9. amhendrick - May 1, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Seems like a pretty straight forward case. I wonder why it needed a six day trial and two days of jury deliberation.

    • gloccamorra - May 1, 2014 at 2:24 PM

      The wheels of justice grind slowly. Also, lawyers were involved, and they get paid by the hour.

  10. billybawl - May 1, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    “Viva democracy. And viva New Jersey businessmen for having the right to name their probably gross bars whatever silly name they want to. That’s what America is all about.”

    You forgot: “Viva the attorneys for both parties who just got paid.”

    • 18thstreet - May 1, 2014 at 8:20 PM

      Yeah, they should have worked for free, just like … oh, wait.

  11. chadjones27 - May 1, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    Did New Brunswick just set “The Cluck-U” precedent?

  12. deep64blue - May 1, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    Sad that such a crude name is worth money, stupid interpretation of the First Amendment IMO.

    • mazblast - May 1, 2014 at 2:08 PM

      The First Amendment calls for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, etc. It does not say exercising those freedoms must be done in an intelligent manner.

      • umrguy42 - May 1, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        “It does not say exercising those freedoms must be done in an intelligent manner.”

        Luckily for most of the PFT commentariat ;p

    • anxovies - May 5, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      Apparently, the allegations were that the bar owner was singled out by the mayor and denied free speech. Other businesses like the Cluck-U-Chicken place were not restricted. A feature of the Fourteenth Amendment prevents state governments from denying persons due process of law by treating them in an unequal or arbitrary manner. The Amendment also requires the states to comply with the Bill of Rights, which includes the First Amendment. Cases based upon the deprivation of rights sometimes seem extreme or trivial. That’s because the courts are constantly exploring the boundaries of constitutional interpretation.

  13. Marty - May 1, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    Now all you New Brunswick residents go visit the bar you helped finance. Say hello to the owner, admire the watch you helped purchase.

    I am all for governments getting chopped for overreach, but I really wish it was the government agent/employee who would lose the money.

    • gloccamorra - May 1, 2014 at 2:31 PM

      Yeah, all government employees have or claim immunity. Only non-government individuals can be held responsible for their actions.

  14. unlost1 - May 1, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    no, what america is about is figuring out how to become a millionare without doing anything- or trying to do something wrong and making it loo like you’re the victim!

    • unlost1 - May 1, 2014 at 3:23 PM

      oooh thumbs down. i can’t take it. maybe i’ll become a star. i’ll name myself Buck Naked.

  15. tbird05 - May 1, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    I’d like to see him try and get that on a license plate. He’d be rejected…and would not win a settlement from the state either.

  16. mornelithe - May 1, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    And New Jersey begins the inevitable brain drain in franchise naming, as prophesied in Idiocracy.

  17. weaselpuppy - May 1, 2014 at 3:02 PM

    That judge is Sofa King awesome.

  18. theebbandflow - May 1, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    The best bit about this story is the 30 seconds it took me to realise there was a spoonerism involved.

  19. watermelon1 - May 1, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Fuddruckers did it first!

  20. sandwiches4ever - May 1, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    I do not miss New Brunswick one bit.

    • nbjays - May 1, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      I live in New Brunswick. Fortunately for me it is the province in Canada, not the city in New Jersey.

  21. yashraba - May 1, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    I live right next to New Brunswick, this is where Rutgers campus is located. Home of the original “fat sandwiches form the grease trucks” that was seen on Man vs Food. One of their top sellers is the “fat b*tch” sandwich(cheese steack, chicken fingers, french fries, mayo ketchup lettuce & onion) so I’d say “Buck Foston” would fit right in with the rest of the dilapidated slums, frat houses and dive bars.

  22. Jeremy Fox - May 1, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    Hey, I remember Cluck U Chicken from my New Brunswick days! Gotta agree with the other commenters: a bar called “Buck Foston” isn’t going to be out of place in New Brunswick.

  23. DelawarePhilliesFan - May 1, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    Chickens Cluck line is classic – but nothing will ever top the westorange.info affair.

    The Cease and Desist response letter is the best sarcastic letter ever written – and a damn good legal one too!

    http://abovethelaw.com/2013/06/how-to-write-a-great-response-to-a-cease-and-desist-letter/

    • capsboy - May 1, 2014 at 8:37 PM

      This one was pretty good also:

      http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/12/30/258427295/the-other-f-word-brewer-responds-to-starbucks-over-beer-name

  24. kylewo - May 1, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    I think a lot of people are physically resistant to understanding the First Amendment. It’s a strange phenomenon that should be studied by top men. Top men…

    • tedwmoore - May 1, 2014 at 6:13 PM

      The First is not alone among Amendments here.

  25. kirstinblatterfein - May 1, 2014 at 9:14 PM

    It is amazing to see all of the buzz this lawsuit has created. I’m happy to see so many people supporting my father in his fight to defend our first amendment right to freedom of speech. If you take anything from hearing about this case I hope it is that you feel a little more liberated than before to defend your personal freedoms. For all the people that disagree with him, you’re entitled to your own opinion… he was fighting for you too and your right to freedom of speech as well!

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