If it weren’t for the planter boxes, the current fight over a pirate flag at Burgers & Vine might never have happened.
“I put in 100 hours on those planter boxes,” said Codi Binkley on Thursday, clarifying his position on why he and Carlo Cavallo, co-owners of the newly opened burger joint at 400 First St. E., are determined to leave the Jolly Roger up.
For the restaurateurs, the half-barrel planters – which Binkley built himself – became emblematic of the difficulties the two faced in getting their business open.
After installing them, they were told they needed approval from the Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission, which they obtained.
“I put them back up,” Binkley said. “A week later, I get a letter from the city.” Now they needed architectural plans drawn up, featuring the planter boxes, to be submitted for a building permit.
The process cost thousands of dollars, according to Binkley, but they did it and put the planters back up. Then came another letter.
“After two permits that we got – design review and building permits – now we needed a third permit, the encroachment permit,” Cavallo said. This one would take four months to a year to get approved, they were told.
“So we took (the planters) down,” Cavallo continued. “And then we opened up. … And then I get a call from the city, maybe three or four days after we opened.”
This time it was Wendy Atkins, associate planner for the city’s Planning Department, calling about the pirate flag. “We received a complaint back when the sign was first displayed,” Atkins said this week. “So we contacted the business owner and let them know what the sign requirements were with regard to a temporary display.”
According to the city’s sign ordinance, some signs can be approved administratively, some by the design review commission, and some are exempt. Grand opening signs can be put up without a permit for a limited time – and the Jolly Roger, Atkins said, falls under that category.
“That’s what Planning Director David Goodison and I have considered this to be, is a grand opening sign,” Atkins explained. City code allows such signs to stay up for 15 days, after which they must be taken down absent a permit from the city.
But for the restaurant owners, frustration with the permitting process had boiled over. They resolved to keep the flag right where it is.
“At this point, it’s line-in-the-sand time,” Cavallo said. Both say they’ve had enough, and are leaving up the Jolly Roger on principle. They also say several other Plaza business owners are backing them up.
The business partners also noted the emotional reasons behind the flag going up in the first place: “My childhood best friend died six weeks ago,” Cavallo said.
To make him feel better, Binkley “put the flag up to make me laugh. And it’s not easy to get up on that roof and put that flag up. And I think that’s one reason why it stayed.”