City of Reno

Staff Report

Staff Report (For Possible Action): Update, discussion and possible adoption of ordinance amendments to Titles 4, 5, and 8 of Reno Municipal Code to exempt sales of First Amendment protected expressive merchandise from business license and park permit requirements, and other matters properly related thereto.


Department:Community Development - Business LicenseSponsors:


  1. Printout

Recommendation and Proposed Motion

Recommendation:  Staff recommends Council refer the related Bill Numbers for a second reading.


Proposed Motion:  I move to approve staff recommendation.

Staff Report Formal Body

Summary: The proposed amendments to Titles 4, 5, and 8 of the Reno Municipal Code (“RMC”) exempt the sales of First Amendment protected expressive merchandise from business license and park permit requirements. Staff recommends the City Council adopt the proposed ordinance changes.


Previous Council Action: On November 20, 2013, Council reviewed proposed amendments to RMC Titles 4, 5, and 8.


On October 8, 2013, Council provided additional direction to compare relevant provisions of the Sparks Municipal Code with proposed amendments to RMC.


On January 13, 2013, Council directed review of the RMC to clarify business licensing and other concerns relating to First Amendment artists.


On February 26, 2014, Council referred the proposed ordinance changes for a second reading and directed staff to meet with Steven White to review the proposed changes.


Background:  In Leathers v. Medlock, 499 U.S. 439 (1991), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a broad-based sales tax is not unconstitutional when applied to sales which are protected by the First Amendment.


On January 8, 2014, the Nevada Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Déjà vu Showgirls of Las Vegas LLC, et al. v. Nevada Department of Taxation, et al., Case Numbers 59752 and 60037.  Déjà vu Showgirls focuses the applicability of Leathers to a broad-based tax on live entertainment applicable to topless dancers.  The tax is being challenged by the topless dancing industry.  Like the sale of expressive merchandise, topless dancing is protected by the First Amendment.  Pending the outcome of these cases, staff recommends that the sale of expressive merchandise be specifically exempted from business licensing requirements.


Discussion: The RMC currently requires an individual to obtain a business license to sell expressive merchandise on sidewalks and other public places. In addition, the RMC requires an individual to obtain a park permit to sell expressive merchandise in city parks.


The proposed amendments to Titles 4, 5, and 8 of the RMC define and exempt the sales of First Amendment protected expressive merchandise from business licensing and park permitting requirements.


Pursuant to City Council direction, staff met with Steven White on March 10, 2014 to review the proposed ordinance. The meeting resulted in the modification of certain language to refine the definition of “expressive merchandise” and better clarify the scope of the exemption. Given the scope of the changes, the ordinance is being presented to the City Council for first reading.


Financial Implications: The total amount of business license revenue for these activities is negligible and will have no material impact on the General Fund.


Legal Implications: The First Amendment states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Meeting History

Mar 26, 2014 12:00 PM Video Reno City Council Regular


Linda Mountain, 118 West Street #305, stated her support for the proposed amendments.


Steven C. White, Silver Springs resident, thanked the Council for working with the artists during the ordinance amendment process.

Janet Pirozzi, 6410 Lotus Street, presented a Public Comment Form in favor of the amendments, but did not wish to speak.

Council upheld the staff recommendation.

MOVER:Hillary Schieve, Council Member
SECONDER:Sharon Zadra, Council Member
AYES:Robert Cashell, Jenny Brekhus, Sharon Zadra, Oscar Delgado, Dwight Dortch, Neoma Jardon, Hillary Schieve