Can I Advertise My Business By Referencing Another Business?

There’s a restaurant/bar around here that advertises itself as being “across from Ace Hardware.”

Do they need Ace Hardware’s permission to do this?

Yep you can do that.

Your not mentioning Ace Hardware for any reason, your just using it as a landmark. Your not comparing it to you in any way, nor are you defaming them.

IANAL though, but my shop does it and never had a problem with it.

The reference is clearly to a location only and not to any association with Ace Hardware other than a proximity. No permission needed.

What if my business is Skanky’s Strip Club & Head Shop and it’s across the street from St. Theresa’s Church? Still no conflict?

The relevant question for a business is not whether permission is needed or if there’s a conflict, but whether it’s going to cost you money. Is the other business going to object, complain, and maybe even sue you in court?

That will cost you money & take time away from running your business. So a smart businessperson would take steps to avoid that. Like asking first, flattering them by mentioning how “Ace Hardware is so well-known to people in this area”, etc. As long as your business doesn’t sell any hardware, they probably won’t object.

But St. Theresa’s very likely will object to being mentioned in the Skanky Strip Club ad. And their objections would cost you time & money. Even if, legally, you have the free speech right to do so.

I think the problem of the strip club being across the street from a church would rarely happen if the municipality had any zoning laws. Presumably the person opening the strip club would be applying for various permits (liquor, food, entertainment) and the neighborhood would likely raise hell over it.

Unless it were already in a developed area with adult entertainment (like San Francisco’s Tenderloin). If that were the case, people wouldn’t find a strip club next to a church as being unusual.

And if these theoretical places existed in Houston (zoning laws? what are those?) then you have to expect just about anything.