Aspen City Hall, boutiques near truce in solicitation suit
A legal dispute over the city’s rules and enforcement regarding solicitation by retailers appears to be drawing closer to a settlement.
Court documents filed this week by the Aspen government’s assistant attorney, Andrea Bryan, suggest that City Hall is trying to hatch a deal with plaintiff Aspen Retail Management, which operated the boutiques Kristals Cosmetics Aspen and Adore.
Aspen Retail sued the city because it says the city violated the First Amendment last summer by forbidding the beauty boutiques’ employees to hand out free samples to passersby on the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall and on East Cooper Avenue.
Responding to complaints, the city issued written warnings to the two stores in August. The city prohibits retailers from pitching products or having sales chats in its right of ways, including those on the downtown sidewalks and malls. The rule doesn’t apply to restaurants so long as they have an agreement with the city.
“Since the receipt of the complaint and other documents in this case by the city, the parties have been attempting to resolve this matter in an amicable manner,” Bryan wrote in a motion filed in the U.S. District Court of Colorado on Friday. “Although a formal resolution may still be possible and an informal understanding regarding the city’s enforcement has been reached, a formal resolution has not been reached at this point.”
The city has yet to file a response to the suit, which also seeks an injunction to stop the city from enforcing the ordinances in question.
Aspen Retail’s suit says in September it closed the two stores, which were located at 525 E. Cooper Ave. and 430 E. Hyman Ave., because it lost employees who were afraid the city would jail them if they continued to hand out the samples, which was part of their job duties.
“The city objects to the content of plaintiffs’ speech,” the suit said. “The city has utilized its ordinances to stifle the plaintiffs’ ability to advertise their products. The city has also utilized its ordinances to censor the non-commercial messages plaintiffs seek to convey regarding personal grooming, beauty tips and skin care.”
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Natalie Tsevdos, who is in charge of inspecting roughly 116 food establishments located in the city of Aspen, said violations typically are corrected on-site.