JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
In 1973, appellants began operating an adult bookstore in the commercial zone in the Borough of Mount Ephraim in Camden County, N. J. The store sold adult books, magazines, and films. Amusement licenses shortly issued permitting the store to install coin-operated devices by virtue of which a customer could sit in a booth, insert a coin, and watch an adult film. In 1976, the store introduced an additional coin-operated mechanism permitting the customer to watch a live dancer, usually nude, performing behind a glass panel.
Appellants were found guilty in the Municipal Court and fines were imposed. Appeal was taken to the Camden County Court, where a trial de novo was held on the record made in the Municipal Court and appellants were again found guilty. The County Court first rejected appellants' claim that the ordinance was being selectively and improperly enforced against them because other establishments offering live entertainment were permitted in the commercial zones.
Appellants appealed to this Court. Their principal claim is that the imposition of criminal penalties under an ordinance prohibiting all live entertainment, including nonobscene, nude dancing, violated their rights of free expression guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
As the Mount Ephraim Code has been construed by the New Jersey courts—a construction that is binding upon us— "live entertainment," including nude dancing, is "not a permitted use in any establishment" in the Borough of Mount Ephraim. App. to Juris. Statement 12a. By excluding live entertainment throughout the Borough, the Mount Ephraim ordinance prohibits a wide range of expression that has long been held to be within the protections of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Entertainment, as well as political and ideological speech, is protected; motion pictures, programs broadcast by radio and television, and live entertainment, such as musical and dramatic works, fall within the First Amendment guarantee. Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 343 U.S. 495
Whatever First Amendment protection should be extended to nude dancing, live or on film, however, the Mount Ephraim ordinance prohibits all live entertainment in the Borough: no property in the Borough may be principally used for the commercial production of plays, concerts, musicals, dance, or any other form of live entertainment.
The First Amendment requires that there be sufficient justification for the exclusion of a broad category of protected expression as one of the permitted commercial uses in the Borough. The justification does not appear on the face of the ordinance since the ordinance itself is ambiguous with respect to whether live entertainment is permitted: § 99-15B purports to specify only the "principal" permitted uses in commercial establishments, and its listing of permitted retail establishments is expressly nonexclusive; yet, § 99-4 declares that all uses not expressly permitted are forbidden.
The power of local governments to zone and control land use is undoubtedly broad and its proper exercise is an essential aspect of achieving a satisfactory quality of life in both urban and rural communities. But the zoning power is not infinite and unchallengeable; it "must be exercised within constitutional limits." Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 514 (1977) (STEVENS, J., concurring in judgment). Accordingly, it is subject to judicial review; and as is most often the case, the standard of review is determined by the nature of the right assertedly threatened or violated rather than by the power being exercised or the specific limitation imposed. Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516, 529-530 (1945).
Where property interests are adversely affected by zoning, the courts generally have emphasized the breadth of municipal power to control land use and have sustained the regulation if it is rationally related to legitimate state concerns and does not deprive the owner of economically viable use of his property. Agins v. City of Tiburon, 447 U.S. 255, 260 (1980); Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 U.S. 1 (1974); Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 395 (1926). But an ordinance may fail even under that limited standard of review. Moore v. East Cleveland, supra, at 520 (STEVENS, J., concurring in judgment); Nectow v. Cambridge, 277 U.S. 183 (1928).
Beyond that, as is true of other ordinances, when a zoning law infringes upon a protected liberty, it must be narrowly drawn and must further a sufficiently substantial government interest.
Similarly, in Village of Schaumburg v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 444 U.S. 620, 637 (1980),
As an initial matter, this case is not controlled by Young v. American Mini Theatres, Inc., the decision relied upon by the Camden County Court. Although the Court there stated that a zoning ordinance is not invalid merely because it regulates activity protected under the First Amendment, it emphasized that the challenged restriction on the location of adult movie theaters imposed a minimal burden on protected speech. 427 U. S., at 62. The restriction did not affect the number of adult movie theaters that could operate in the city; it merely dispersed them. The Court did not imply that a municipality could ban all adult theaters—much less all live entertainment or all nude dancing—from its commercial districts citywide.
In this case, however, Mount Ephraim has not adequately justified its substantial restriction of protected activity.
Second, Mount Ephraim contends that it may selectively exclude commercial live entertainment from the broad range of commercial uses permitted in the Borough for reasons normally associated with zoning in commercial districts, that is, to avoid the problems that may be associated with live entertainment, such as parking, trash, police protection, and medical facilities. The Borough has presented no evidence, and it is not immediately apparent as a matter of experience, that live entertainment poses problems of this nature more significant than those associated with various permitted uses; nor does it appear that the Borough's zoning authority has arrived at a defensible conclusion that unusual problems are presented by live entertainment. Cf. Young v. American Mini Theatres, Inc., 427 U. S., at 54-55, and n. 6.
The Borough also suggests that § 99-15B is a reasonable "time, place, and manner" restriction; yet it does not identify the municipal interests making it reasonable to exclude all commercial live entertainment but to allow a variety of other
Thus, the initial question in determining the validity of the exclusion as a time, place, and manner restriction is whether live entertainment is "basically incompatible with the normal activity [in the commercial zones]." As discussed above, no evidence has been presented to establish that live entertainment is incompatible with the uses presently permitted by the Borough. Mount Ephraim asserts that it could have chosen to eliminate all commercial uses within its boundaries. Yet we must assess the exclusion of live entertainment in light of the commercial uses Mount Ephraim allows, not in light of what the Borough might have done.
To be reasonable, time, place, and manner restrictions not only must serve significant state interests but also must
The Borough nevertheless contends that live entertainment in general and nude dancing in particular are amply available in close-by areas outside the limits of the Borough. Its position suggests the argument that if there were countywide zoning, it would be quite legal to allow live entertainment in only selected areas of the county and to exclude it from primarily residential communities, such as the Borough of Mount Ephraim. This may very well be true, but the Borough cannot avail itself of that argument in this case. There is no countywide zoning in Camden County, and Mount Ephraim is free under state law to impose its own zoning restrictions, within constitutional limits. Furthermore, there is no evidence in this record to support the proposition that the kind of entertainment appellants wish to provide is available in reasonably nearby areas. The courts below made no such findings; and at least in their absence, the ordinance excluding live entertainment from the commercial zone cannot constitutionally be applied to appellants so as to criminalize the activities for which they have been fined. "[O]ne is not to have the exercise of his liberty of expression in appropriate
Accordingly, the convictions of these appellants are infirm, and the judgment of the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concurring.
I join the Court's opinion, but write separately to address two points that I believe are sources of some ambiguity in this still emerging area of the law.
First, I would emphasize that the presumption of validity that traditionally attends a local government's exercise of its zoning powers carries little, if any, weight where the zoning regulation trenches on rights of expression protected under the First Amendment. In order for a reviewing court to determine whether a zoning restriction that impinges on free speech is "narrowly drawn [to] further a sufficiently substantial governmental interest," ante, at 68, the zoning authority must be prepared to articulate, and support, a reasoned and significant basis for its decision. This burden is by no means insurmountable, but neither should it be viewed as de minimis. In this case, Mount Ephraim evidently assumed that because the challenged ordinance was intended as a land-use regulation, it need survive only the minimal scrutiny of a rational relationship test, and that once rationality was established, appellants then carried the burden of proving the regulation invalid on First Amendment grounds. Brief for Appellee 11-12. After today's decision, it should be clear that where protected First Amendment interests are at stake, zoning regulations have no such "talismanic immunity from constitutional challenge." Young v. American Mini Theatres, Inc., 427 U.S. 50, 75 (1976) (concurring opinion).
My other observation concerns the suggestion that a local
Were I a resident of Mount Ephraim, I would not expect my right to attend the theater or to purchase a novel to be contingent upon the availability of such opportunities in "nearby" Philadelphia, a community in whose decisions I would have no political voice. Cf. Southeastern Promotions, Ltd. v. Conrad, 420 U.S. 546, 556 (1975) ("`[O]ne is not to have the exercise of his liberty of expression in appropriate places abridged on the plea that it may be exercised in some other place,'" quoting Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 163 (1939)). Similarly, I would not expect the citizens of Philadelphia to be under any obligation to provide me with access to theaters and bookstores simply because Mount Ephraim previously had acted to ban these forms of "entertainment." This case does not require articulation of a rule for evaluating the meaning of "reasonable access" in different contexts. The scope of relevant zoning authority varies widely across our country, as do geographic configurations and types of commerce among neighboring communities, and this issue
JUSTICE POWELL, with whom JUSTICE STEWART joins, concurring.
I join the Court's opinion as I agree that Mount Ephraim has failed altogether to justify its broad restriction of protected expression. This is not to say, however, that some communities are not free—by a more carefully drawn ordinance— to regulate or ban all commercial public entertainment. In my opinion, such an ordinance could be appropriate and valid in a residential community where all commercial activity is excluded. Similarly, a residential community should be able to limit commercial establishments to essential "neighborhood" services permitted in a narrowly zoned area.
But the Borough of Mount Ephraim failed to follow these paths. The ordinance before us was not carefully drawn and, as the Court points out, it is sufficiently overinclusive and underinclusive that any argument about the need to maintain the residential nature of this community fails as a justification.
JUSTICE STEVENS, concurring in the judgment.
The record in this case leaves so many relevant questions unanswered that the outcome, in my judgment, depends on the allocation of the burden of persuasion. If the case is viewed as a simple attempt by a small residential community to exclude the commercial exploitation of nude dancing from a "setting of tranquility," post, at 85 (BURGER, C. J., dissenting), it would seem reasonable to require appellants to overcome
Neither of these characterizations provides me with a satisfactory approach to this case. For appellants' business is located in a commercial zone, and the character of that zone is not unequivocally identified either by the text of the Borough's zoning ordinance or by the evidence in the record. And even though the foliage of the First Amendment may cast protective shadows over some forms of nude dancing,
One of the puzzling features of this case is that the character of the prohibition the Borough seeks to enforce is so hard to ascertain. Because the written zoning ordinance purports to ban all commercial uses except those that are specifically listed—and because no form of entertainment is listed—literally it prohibits the commercial exploitation not only of live entertainment, but of motion pictures and inanimate forms
The commercial zone in which appellants' adult bookstore is located is situated along the Black Horse Pike, a north-south artery on the eastern fringe of the Borough.
The record reveals very little about the character of most of these establishments, and it reveals nothing at all about the motion picture theater. The one fact that does appear with clarity from the present record is that, in 1973, appellants were issued an amusement license that authorized them to exhibit adult motion pictures which their patrons viewed in private booths in their adult bookstore. Borough officials apparently regarded this business as lawful under the zoning ordinance and compatible with the immediate neighborhood until July 1976 when appellants repainted their exterior sign and modified their interior exhibition.
The difficulty in this case is that we are left to speculate as to the Borough's reasons for proceeding against appellants'
CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER, with whom JUSTICE REHNQUIST joins, dissenting.
The Borough of Mount Ephraim is a small borough in Camden County, N. J. It is located on the Black Horse Turnpike, the main artery connecting Atlantic City with two major cities, Camden and Philadelphia. Mount Ephraim is about 17 miles from the city of Camden and about the same distance from the river that separates New Jersey from the State of Pennsylvania.
The Black Horse Turnpike cuts through the center of Mount Ephraim. For 250 feet on either side of the turnpike, the Borough has established a commercial zone. The rest of the community is zoned for residential use, with either single- or multi-family units permitted. Most of the inhabitants of Mount Ephraim commute to either Camden or Philadelphia for work.
The residents of this small enclave chose to maintain their town as a placid, "bedroom" community of a few thousand people. To that end, they passed an admittedly broad regulation prohibiting certain forms of entertainment. Because I believe that a community of people are—within limits— masters of their own environment, I would hold that, as applied, the ordinance is valid.
At issue here is the right of a small community to ban an activity incompatible with a quiet, residential atmosphere. The Borough of Mount Ephraim did nothing more than employ traditional police power to provide a setting of tranquility. This Court has often upheld the power of a community "to determine that the community should be beautiful as well as healthy, spacious as well as clean, well-balanced
Here we have nothing more than a variation on that theme.
The Court depicts Mount Ephraim's ordinance as a ban on live entertainment. But, in terms, it does not mention any kind of entertainment. As applied, it operates as a ban on nude dancing in appellants' "adult" bookstore, and for that reason alone it is here. Thus, the issue in the case that we have before us is not whether Mount Ephraim may ban traditional live entertainment, but whether it may ban nude dancing, which is used as the "bait" to induce customers into the appellants' bookstore. When, and if, this ordinance is used to prevent a high school performance of "The Sound of Music," for example, the Court can deal with that problem.
An overconcern about draftsmanship and overbreadth should not be allowed to obscure the central question before us. It is clear that, in passing the ordinance challenged here, the citizens of the Borough of Mount Ephraim meant only to preserve the basic character of their community. It is just as clear that, by thrusting their live nude dancing shows on this community, the appellants alter and damage that community over its objections. As applied in this case, therefore, the ordinance speaks directly and unequivocally. It may be that, as applied in some other case, this ordinance would violate the First Amendment, but, since such a case is not before us, we should not decide it.
Even assuming that the "expression" manifested in the nude dancing that is involved here is somehow protected speech under the First Amendment, the Borough of Mount
Here, as in American Mini-Theatres, the zoning ordinance imposes a minimal intrusion on genuine rights of expression; only by contortions of logic can it be made otherwise. Mount Ephraim is a small community on the periphery of two major urban centers where this kind of entertainment may be found acceptable. The fact that nude dancing has been totally banned in this community is irrelevant. "Chilling" this kind of show business in this tiny residential enclave can hardly be thought to show that the appellants' "message" will be prohibited in nearby—and more sophisticated— cities.
The fact that a form of expression enjoys some constitutional protection does not mean that there are not times and places inappropriate for its exercise. The towns and villages of this Nation are not, and should not be, forced into a mold cast by this Court. Citizens should be free to choose to shape their community so that it embodies their conception of the "decent life." This will sometimes mean deciding that certain forms of activity—factories, gas stations, sports stadia, bookstores, and surely live nude shows—will not be allowed. That a community is willing to tolerate such a commercial use as a convenience store, a gas station, a pharmacy, or a delicatessen does not compel it also to tolerate every other "commercial use," including pornography peddlers and live nude shows.
In Federalist Paper No. 51, p. 160 (R. Fairfield ed. 1966), Madison observed:
This expresses the balancing indispensable in all governing, and the Bill of Rights is one of the checks to control over-reaching by government. But it is a check to be exercised sparingly by federal authority over local expressions of choice going to essentially local concerns.
I am constrained to note that some of the concurring views exhibit an understandable discomfort with the idea of denying this small residential enclave the power to keep this kind of show business from its very doorsteps. The Borough of Mount Ephraim has not attempted to suppress the point of view of anyone or to stifle any category of ideas. To say that there is a First Amendment right to impose every form of expression on every community, including the kind of "expression" involved here, is sheer nonsense. To enshrine such a notion in the Constitution ignores fundamental values that the Constitution ought to protect. To invoke the First Amendment to protect the activity involved in this case trivializes and demeans that great Amendment.
"A. Purpose. The purpose of this district is to provide areas for local and regional commercial operations. The zone district pattern recognizes the strip commercial pattern which exists along Kings Highway and the Black Horse Pike. It is intended, however, to encourage such existing uses and any new uses or redevelopment to improve upon the zoning districts of greater depth by encouraging shopping-center-type development with buildings related to each other in design, landscaping and site planning and by requiring off-street parking, controlled ingress and egress, greater buildings setbacks, buffer areas along property lines adjacent to residential uses, and a concentration of commercial uses into fewer locations to eliminate the strip pattern."
The Police Chief also testified. He stated that he knew of no live entertainment in the commercial zones other than that offered by appellants and by the three establishments mentioned by the building inspector. Id., at 67.
Various official views have been expressed as to what extent entertainment is excluded from the commercial zone. At the initial evidentiary hearing, the prosecutor suggested that the ordinance only banned "live entertainment" in commercial establishments. Munic. Ct. Tr. 49 (emphasis added). By contrast, the building inspector for the Borough stated that there was no basis for distinguishing between live entertainment and other entertainment under the ordinance. Id., at 20, 50. Before this Court, the Borough asserted in its brief that the ordinance "does not prohibit all entertainment, but only live entertainment," Brief for Appellee 21, yet counsel for the Borough stated during oral argument that the ordinance prohibits commercial establishments from offering any entertainment. Tr. of Oral Arg. 40. The County Court ruled that "live entertainment" is not a permitted use under § 99-15B, but it did not consider whether nonlive entertainment might be a permitted use. At oral argument, counsel for appellants referred to a movie theater in the Borough, Tr. of Oral Arg. 9, but counsel for the Borough explained that it is permitted only because it is a nonconforming use. Id., at 28, 38-40.
"[Thus,] it can withstand constitutional scrutiny only upon a clear showing that the burden imposed is necessary to protect a compelling and substantial governmental interest . . . . [T]he onus of demonstrating that no less intrusive means will adequately protect the compelling state interest and that the challenged statute is sufficiently narrowly drawn, is upon the party seeking to justify the burden." Id., at 18 (citation omitted).
Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494 (1977), like Belle Terre, involved an ordinance that limited the occupancy of each dwelling to a single family. Unlike the ordinance challenged in Belle Terre, however, this ordinance defined "family" in a manner that prevented certain relatives from living together. JUSTICE POWELL, joined by three other Justices, concluded that the ordinance impressibly impinged upon protected liberty interests. 431 U. S., at 499. JUSTICE STEVENS concluded that the ordinance did not even survive the Euclid test. 431 U. S., at 520-521. The dissenting opinions did not contend that zoning ordinances must always be deferentially reviewed. Rather, the dissenting Justices who addressed the issue rejected the view that the ordinance impinged upon interests that required heightened protection under the Due Process Clause. Id., at 537 (STEWART, J., joined by REHNQUIST, J., dissenting), id., at 549 (WHITE, J., dissenting).
Even where a challenged regulation restricts freedom of expression only incidentally or only in a small number of cases, we have scrutinized the governmental interest furthered by the regulation and have stated that the regulation must be narrowly drawn to avoid unnecessary intrusion on freedom of expression. See United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367, 376-377 (1968).
Similarly, JUSTICE POWELL'S concurring opinion stressed that the effect of the challenged ordinance on First Amendment interests was "incidental and minimal." Id., at 78. He did not suggest that a municipality could validly exclude theaters from its commercial zones if it had included other businesses presenting similar problems. Although he regarded the burden imposed by the ordinance as minimal, JUSTICE POWELL examined the city's justification for the restriction before he concluded that the ordinance was valid. Id., at 82, and n. 5. Emphasizing that the restriction was tailored to the particular problem identified by the city council, he acknowledged that "[t]he case would have present[ed] a different situation had Detroit brought within the ordinance types of theaters that had not been shown to contribute to the deterioration of surrounding areas." Id., at 82.
"It is clear that, in passing the ordinance challenged here, the citizens of the Borough of Mount Ephraim meant only to preserve the basic character of their community. It is just as clear that, by thrusting their live nude dancing shows on this community, the appellants alter and damage that community over its objections." Post, at 86.
The problem with THE CHIEF JUSTICE'S analysis, in my judgment, is that "the basic character of [the] community" is not at all clear on the basis of the present record. Although Mount Ephraim apparently is primarily a residential community, it is also a community that in 1973 deemed an adult bookstore that exhibited adult motion pictures, or "peep shows," not inconsistent with its basic character. I simply cannot say with confidence that the addition of a live nude dancer to this commercial zone in 1976 produced a dramatic change in the community's character.