COLUMBIA — Missouri lawmakers will likely have to settle the issue of a Smithville restaurant with "drugstore" in its name.
The Missouri Board of Pharmacy on Wednesday took no action against Justus Drugstore: A Restaurant. The board earlier this year ordered the restaurant's owners to drop drugstore from its name, relying on a state law that prohibits businesses from using that term, along with "pharmacy" and "apothecary," unless they employ a licensed pharmacist.
The restaurant's owners, Jonathan Justus and Camille Eklof, have so far refused, saying a name change would likely force them to close. The "drugstore" in the name refers to a pharmacy that Jonathan Justus' parents and grandparents used to operate on the same site.
The restaurant remains open and the board has pursued no other action since first demanding the name change in June.
The American Civil Liberties Union has taken on the restaurant's case, claiming the board is infringing on the owners' free speech rights, while local lawmakers say the board's interpretation of the statute is overly broad.
On Wednesday, the board didn't discuss the restaurant directly. Instead, the members took public comments on the law underlying the fight.
Several speakers representing pharmacist trade groups said the law was necessary to prevent unlicensed people and possibly illegal Internet drug retailers from fooling customers into thinking they were regulated businesses.
But some lawmakers said the statute is not specific enough about what it wants to restrict.
Republican Sen. Luann Ridgeway of Smithville asked the board to rescind its order against the restaurant and give legislators time to amend the law so it won't affect legitimate businesses, such as the Justus restaurant.
"This statute, the literal interpretation of it, has been driven to an illogical extreme," Ridgeway said. "We would like to have the opportunity as a legislature to address that."
She said the Legislature would seek to ensure the law only applied to businesses seeking to deceive their customers.
The board took no formal action and board lawyer Curtis Thompson said he couldn't comment on what the board's next move might be. But he said the board would work with lawmakers.