A Florida business owner filed a lawsuit to contest a town ordinance prohibiting him from displaying a 10-foot-tall inflatable Super Mario outside of his video game store.
April 7 (UPI) -- The owner of a Florida video game store is challenging a town law that prevented him from displaying an inflatable character outside his store.
Government in the Jacksonville suburb of Orange Park told Scott Fisher, owner of Gone Broke Gaming, he was required to remove the 10-foot inflatable Super Mario that once stood outside his store or face a fine of $100 for each day it remained.
The town cited a law that prohibits business owners from installing portable displays, like the giant Mario, that convey a message relating to their business.
"Running a small business isn't easy from the start," Fisher said. "Then having the city tell me they're going to cut some of my profits out from under me in the form of not having my advertising, it kind of hurts."
Fisher said he placed the large character outside of his store to attract business after getting approval from his landlord and the nearby businesses in July.
"Because our store is so hard to see we thought a giant inflatable Mario would help attract attention to our store front," he said. "We put the Mario up and it was literally in no time that the foot traffic tripled."
Fisher received support from Institute for Justice and filed a federal lawsuit against Orange Park claiming the law violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by discriminating certain types of speech.
"I could have a Santa Claus, an elf or some other seasonal inflatable but because Mario pertains to my business, I can't have him," Fisher said.
Fisher also stated that the loss of the inflatable display has hurt his business, as customers and passersby no longer stop outside the store to take photos with Mario.
"When we had to take it down I could tell there was a decrease in the foot traffic and the amount of phone calls started coming in ask where our location was increased substantially," he said.