In this installment of “Cases in Brief,” Laurence Tribe ’66, Harvard University professor and expert on constitutional law, recounts Larkin v. Grendel’s Den, Inc., a case he argued on behalf of Grendel’s Den, a Harvard Square restaurant and bar, before the Supreme Court in 1982.
Grendel’s Den, a bar frequented by members of the Harvard community, was denied a liquor license by the church next door. Section 16c, a Massachusetts blue law, gave the church the power to veto liquor licenses of businesses within 500 feet. A law student raised the issue in Tribe’s Constitutional Law class. His response: “Why don’t we bring a lawsuit?”
The resulting case went all the way to the Supreme Court. On December 13, 1982, in an 8-1 decision, the Court declared the law unconstitutional under the establishment clauses of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, allowing Grendel’s Den to receive a liquor license.
Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School where he’s taught since 1968. He has argued 35 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and his treatise, American Constitutional Law, has been cited more than any other legal text.