Del. Beach Trinket Shop Owner Loses First Amendment Fight

The owner of Jeremiah's, a beach goods store in Dewey Beach, sued after being fined multiple times under a township ordinance restricting displays. He lost.

Jeremiah's via Google Street View.

Jeremiah’s via Google Street View.

The owner of Jeremiah’s, a beach trinket shop in Dewey Beach, has lost a federal lawsuit on first amendment grounds. The Delaware beach town had been fining the owner of Jeremiah’s for its “junkie” displays.

Jeremiah’s, at the corner of Dagsworthy Street and Coastal Highway in Dewey Beach, has three stories of beach goods and other shore town trinkets displayed on the outside of its building. The store began doing this in 2006; in 2008 Dewey passed an ordinance limiting the seasonal displays stores could have outside. The town says the merchandise was a distraction for drivers and could block the sidewalks.

Owner Jason Fruchtman sued over first amendment grounds, saying his store had the right to display as much merchandise outside as it wants. He says he was unfairly targeted by officials who didn’t like his store. A judge disagreed.

From his ruling:

The Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to provide evidence from which a reasonable factfinder could find that any selective treatment he suffered was based on an unjustifiable standard (such as to prevent his exercise of a fundamental right). Instead, based on the record evidence, a reasonable factfinder would find that the Code (and the Town’s enforcement of it) was intended to promote safety and aesthetics.

There are also some choice words in Fruchtman’s court filings.

“Dewey Beach is a party town, known mainly for drinking and a culture of hedonism,” according to a 2012 court memo he filed. “How rafts and beach chairs detract from the aesthetics of Dewey is hard to fathom.”

He has 30 days to appeal.

Read a copy of the ruling below.

Opinion: Jason Fruchtman vs. Dewey Beach

[The News-Journal]