City Appeals Court Decision to Save Its Ability to Regulate Tour Guides

‘The City continues to believe a mandatory licensing program for all tour guides is the most effective way … of protecting tourists…’

Charleston Appeals Ruling That Found Tour Guide Licenses Unconstitutional

Charleston, S.C./IMAGE: Southern Living via Youtube

(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) The City of Charleston, S.C., on Jan. 9 appealed a federal court’s decision that found the its tour-guide licenses unconstitutional.

The U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina ruled in August that the license “restricts the speech” of tour guides, thus violating First Amendment protections.

Charleston Attorney Carol Ervin insisted in a statement that the tour guide license “did not violate the First Amendment,” WDIV reported.

“For over thirty years the City maintained a successful tour guide licensing regime to ensure tour guides were qualified to charge the public fees for their services,” Ervin wrote.


“The City continues to believe a mandatory licensing program for all tour guides is the most effective way to achieve the City’s objective of protecting tourists, residents and the tourism industry from the problems caused by unqualified or unscrupulous guides.”

The Institute for Justice along with three individuals who wanted to be tour guides in Charleston—Kimberly Billups, Michael Warfield and Michael Nolan—sued the city in 2016.

After they won the case, Charleston stopped requiring tour guides to register with the city and take written and oral exams based on a 500-page tour guide manual, IJ reported.

IJ Managing Attorney Arif Panju, who represents the tour guides, remains confident in the merits of the initial ruling.

“The First Amendment protects your right to speak for a living, whether you are a journalist, a comedian or a tour guide,” Panju said. “The judge in this case correctly found that Charleston was infringing on that right despite having no real evidence in support of its decision to do so. We are delighted to have the chance to make these important arguments on appeal.”

IJ has defeated tour-guide licensing requirements across the country—in Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; and Savannah, Ga.

Citing the free-speech restrictions of tour guide licenses, Williamsburg, Va., is eliminating its licensing requirements and switching to a voluntary certification system.