Theater facing loss of liquor license over ‘Deadpool’ fires back with lawsuit

Posted at 4:34 PM, Apr 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-19 18:34:59-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A movie theater facing revocation of its liquor license for showing the film “Deadpool” has filed a federal lawsuit against Utah’s liquor control agency.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Brewvies filed a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control citing an infringement on its First Amendment rights.

As FOX 13 first reported on Monday, Brewvies is facing revocation of its liquor license for violating a law that prohibits places that sell alcohol from showing sex acts or nudity. In this case, Brewvies showed “Deadpool” in February. The lawsuit seeks to declare the Utah law unconstitutional.

“The film ‘Deadpool’ is not obscene, and Defendants and the DABC have not claimed the film is obscene under applicable constitutional standards,” Brewvies attorney Rocky Anderson wrote in the lawsuit. “Taken as a whole, the film has serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

In the lawsuit, Brewvies claims the DABC has previously tried to interfere with the films it has shown — citing a warning last year from the DABC about showing the films “Ted 2” and “Magic Mike XXL” that could result in the revocation of its liquor license. Brewvies claims DABC told the theater to screen films with Utah statute in mind.

Brewvies did not ask for specific financial damages in the lawsuit but sought to prohibit the state from taking any action against the theater. It left any attorney’s fees and financial compensation up to the judge or jury that ultimately would hear the case.

On Tuesday, Utah Governor Gary Herbert was asked about the controversy during a ceremonial bill signing on anti-pornography legislation. He declined to say much, preferring to wait and see what happens.

“I think there’s actions that been initiated, we’ll see where that leads to. If it’s a violation of the law, it’s a violation of the law,” the governor said.

A DABC spokeswoman said the agency had no comment on the lawsuit.

Brewvies has turned to GoFundMe to raise money for the legal challenge, and as of Wednesday night they had raised about $4,400 for that effort.