Table talk: November 2019
From the November, 2019 issue
When is a mural not a mural? When it's a sign.
Dan and Patty Arban, the owners of Townies Brewery, learned the difference after a run-in with City Hall not long after they opened last year.
They'd announced their presence with a giant image of a glass of beer on their front wall facing Liberty.
Customers noticed--but so did "one of the other businesses," as Dan carefully describes it. The competitor complained to the city, which ordered them to remove it. The city wouldn't accept it as a mural, he explains, because it clearly promoted the brewery. And as a sign, it was too large.
The wall was bare for months before the Arbans came up with an image that passed muster: a giant reproduction of a 1940s-vintage Michigan tourist map. The brewery's website suggests customers take selfies of themselves pointing to their hometowns.
City planner Chris Cheng emails that they're now working on an updated sign ordinance that will reflect "sign and speech related case law, trends in the sign industry, best practices research, and discussions with city staff, the public, and sign consultants." The city website, a2gov.org, invites citizens to send in pictures of "signs that strike you as particularly creative" as well as those that are "distracting, bland, and ineffective."
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