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August 31, 2015

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No laughing matter: Liquor store chain removing controversial billboard

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Christopher DeVargas

A Lee’s Discount Liquor billboard is seen near the corner of Tropicana Avenue and Decatur Boulevard on Friday, June 14, 2013.

Lee's Discount Liquor is in the process of taking down a controversial billboard.

The billboard, near Tropicana Avenue and Decatur Boulevard, read, "Alcohol: It's cheaper than therapy." It rubbed some people the wrong way and sparked a Change.org petition.

The petition scolded the owners of the local liquor store chain for being insensitive to victims of alcohol misuse.

"With all the alcohol problems Las Vegas residents and others have, the billboard encouraging alcohol consumption versus seeking therapy is a socially irresponsible message to model to everyone," said the petition.

In an email, owner Kenny Lee said that he was aware of the complaints and that the advertisement and two other billboards were in the process of being replaced.

"I thought they were funny and goes well with our television commercials, but didn't realize the people it would affect," wrote Lee, whose commercials often include humorous skits and celebrity guests such as NFL legend Mike Ditka.

Public relations consultant Ira Sternberg said he did a double take when he saw the billboard on his drive home.

"If anyone else was saying it or if it was coming from a third party like a comedian, it would have been funny, but it's coming from a retail establishment and direct merchandiser," Sternberg said.

Lee added that Hae Un Lee, his father and the founder of Lee's, didn't find the billboard funny either.

"Trust me, I heard an earful from my dad," Lee wrote.

Sternberg, who likened the billboard to a casino advertisement claiming, "Gambling: It's cheaper than therapy," had some advice for the Lees before they put up another billboard.

"Consult a public relations consultant first," Sternberg said.

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