HEGWOOD v. CITY OF EAU CLAIRE (April 9, 2012)
Nasty Habit is a popular bar in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Between 2003 and 2006, the bar was the scene of many disturbances involving either over-served patrons or fights between patrons and the bar's own employees. Although the City expressed its concerns to the bar in late 2005 and received a commitment to change, the incidents continued. The City issued a complaint for revocation of the Nasty Habit's liquor license. It alleged that the bar was a "disorderly house" under Wisconsin law. After an administrative hearing, the City Counsel revoked the license. The bar filed suit in federal court alleging a due process violation. Chief Judge Conley (W.D. Wis.) granted summary judgment to the City. Nasty Habit appeals.
In their opinion, Seventh Circuit Judges Flaum and Rovner and District Judge Castillo affirmed. The bar alleged that the statute was unconstitutionally vague, both as applied and on its face. The Court noted that the void for vagueness doctrine required sufficient definiteness for ordinary people to understand whether conduct is prohibited. Here, the statute allows for license revocation if the holder of the license "keeps or maintains a disorderly or riotous, indecent or improper house." The Court recited the litany of incidents at the bar, including fights involving employees, hiding underage girls, and over-serving customers, to name a few. Given that history, Court concluded that there was "no doubt" that the conduct met the statutory definition, even commenting that the bar was probably the wrong plaintiff to challenge the statute. Having concluded that the statute was not unconstitutional as applied, the Court had no need to address the facial attack.