A rule in White Rock’s sign bylaw that restricts businesses to hanging just one banner per year is akin to kicking business owners when they’re down, say managers of one Marine Drive restaurant.
Tracy Gass and Arun Fryer said they were shocked when bylaw officers told them that a banner hung on the railing at Charlie Don’t Surf violates city rules. They first needed to pay $75 for a permit, and then the sign – which is advertising a fish-and-chips deal – could hang for up to 28 days, they were told.
While the stipulation is one of many that took effect last January with approval of the city’s new sign bylaw, Gass and Fryer said to enforce the rule during the waterfront’s slowest months of business is “ridiculous.”
“The parking lot is empty,” Gass said. “There’s no one in here and we can’t get this special going. How is he (owner John Carroll) supposed to do business down here if we can’t even put a special on?”
Paul Stanton, the city’s director of planning and development services, said last week that the banner rule itself is not new; there were similar regulations in the city’s previous sign bylaw. Enforcing the rule, however, is being taken more seriously.
“The commissionaires were told not to enforce that part of the bylaw before, whereas now they’re being told to enforce the bylaw,” he said. “We have a new bylaw and they’re being told to do their job.”
Stanton said he hadn’t heard of any complaints, and confirmed business owners had a voice in developing all of the new rules. The revamped legislation also includes an updated fee schedule and provisions for sandwich boards, which were previously prohibited.
“We went through the BIA for input, and had a number of meetings over it,” he said.
Businesses that violate the bylaw won’t be hit with a ticket right away, Stanton said. But those who continually ignore repeated warnings will, at some point, be fined.
Gass said she doesn’t know what will happen if Charlie’s is ticketed for the banner.
A $100 fine handed to the business in September for violating sandwich-board rules remains on display – and unpaid – in the restaurant, she said.
Following a second warning Dec. 5, and a subsequent visit the next day, the two-for-one banner – along with a second hung to promote Christmas-party bookings – were taken down, she said.
Carroll said he hasn’t decided what to do, but may hang them in the restaurant’s windows, which he was told is allowed.
He added he wasn’t asked for input on the new sign bylaw, and that this year is the first his banners have been singled out by the city.
“It’s very frustrating,” Carroll said. “I’m confused, to say the least.”
Echoing Gass, Fryer agreed it doesn’t make sense to enforce the bylaw at a time when many waterfront businesses are struggling to entice clientele.
“(The city) should be begging for people to come down to the beach.
“It’s almost like they don’t want the businesses to succeed.”