An Orange Park man said he is suing the city for violating his free speech when it comes to marketing his video game business.
His attorneys said the city preventing his display of a popular video game character is unconstitutional.
Gone Broke Gaming owner Scott Fisher said a 10-foot inflatable Mario, the Nintendo character who wears a red shirt and overalls, increased his business on Kingsley Avenue in Orange Park.
“When we first put Mario up we could see that we got triple in foot traffic and after that it declined substantially, and our phone calls for finding out where our location is increased substantially,” he said.
Standing on the steps of the Jacksonville federal courthouse Thursday with the inflatable Mario behind him and his lawyers, Fisher said it was game over for the popular character when the city told him to take it down.
Under city code, the inflatable is considered a portable sign, which isn’t allowed. Fisher’s suit argues other inflatables are allowed in town, but only for holidays or art purposes. His lawyer Erica Smith said because Mario is a video game character and Fisher’s store sells games, his inflatable was banned.
“The First Amendment prevents the government from arbitrarily restricting the free speech rights of businesses,” Smith said. “And the First Amendment also prevents the government from preferring some speech and some messages over others.”
Smith, who is with the national law firm Institute For Justice, calls the case a major first amendment lawsuit.
Orange Park’s Town Clerk Sarah Campbell said she couldn’t comment on the suit because the city hasn’t been served.
Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.