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Should D.C. Tour Guides Have To Pass A Licensing Test?

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The guides for D.C.'s ubiquitous Segway tours are required to pass a test to gain a license
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The guides for D.C.'s ubiquitous Segway tours are required to pass a test to gain a license

The operators of a Washington, D.C. Segway tour business have lost a lawsuit against the city over regulations that require tour guides to be knowledgeable about city history and architecture.

Bill Main and Tonia Edwards, who operate Segs in the City, sued in 2010. Edwards says regulations that require guides like those she employs to take a test and obtain a license violate their right to free speech, and are intended to protect existing tour operators by putting up barriers for new guides.

The city countered that its regulations don't actually restrict what a tour guide can say while on a tour.

"If I were to write a book or make a recording about the history of the area, there's no licensing requirement restricting what I can say," Edwards says. "I don't see what the difference is."

The District Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs requires requires licensing applicants to pay a $200 fee. They also have to pass an exam on Washington D.C., successfully answering 70 percent or more multiple choice questions including topics like:

  • Architecture
  • Dates
  • Government
  • Historical events
  • Landmark buildings
  • Locations
  • Monuments, memorials
  • Museums and art galleries
  • Parks, gardens and zoo aquariums
  • Presidents
  • Sculptures and statues
  • Universities
  • Pictures
  • Regulations

Edwards says licensing should be optional — an accreditation that operators could use when advertising their businesses.

On Thursday, Judge Paul L. Friedman issued a one-page order granting the city's request to dismiss the case. He did not immediately issue an opinion explaining his reasoning.

Robert McNamara, a lawyer who represents Segs in the City, said he intends to appeal.

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