Irvis, a black man, was a guest of a white member of the Moose Lodge No. 107, a private club which limited membership to white males. Irvis was refused service because of his race.
The issuance of a liquor license to a social club that discriminates against non-whites does not significantly involve the state enough to constitute a state action.
Irvis, a black man, was a guest of a white member of the Moose Lodge No. 107 (Moose Lodge), a private club which limited membership to white males. Irvis was refused service at the club’s dining room because of his race. Irvis challenged the club’s refusal to serve him, arguing that the action of the Pennsylvania liquor board issuing Moose Lodge a license made the club’s discrimination “state action.”
Did the club’s discriminatory practices violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
No, the club’s discriminatory practices did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Liquor licenses in Pennsylvania are not freely available to those who meet racially neutral qualifications. This state-enforced scarcity of licenses restricts the ability of blacks to obtain liquor, for liquor is commercially available only a private clubs for a significant portion of the week. Thus, the state of Pennsylvania is putting the weight of its liquor license behind racial discrimination.
When Moose Lodge obtained its liquor license, the state of Pennsylvania became an active participant in the operation of its bar. Liquor licensing laws are pervasive regulatory schemes under which the state dictates and continually supervises virtually every detail of the operation of the licensee’s business. Very few, if any, other licensed businesses experience such complete state involvement. Liquor licenses have been employed in Pennsylvania to regulate a wide variety of moral conduct, such as the presence and activities of homosexuals, performance by a topless dancer, lewd dancing, swearing, being noisy, etc.
Moose Lodge is a private social club in a private building. There is nothing approaching the symbiotic relationship between lessor and lessee that was present in Burton. Moose Lodge is not located and operated in such surroundings that although private in name, discharges a function or performs a service that would otherwise be performed by the state. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board plays absolutely no part in establishing or enforcing the membership or guest policies of the club which it licenses to serve liquor. It cannot be said that the state is a partner or joint venturer in the club’s enterprise.