Not-so-Jolly Roger

CODY BINKLEY, co-owner of Burgers & Vine on First Street East, has drawn a line in the sand over the restaurant’s pirate flag. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

CODY BINKLEY, co-owner of Burgers & Vine on First Street East, has drawn a line in the sand over the restaurant’s pirate flag. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune


It’s a new week, which means a new debate is brewing over the décor of a Plaza business.

This time it’s Burgers & Vine – the recently-opened restaurant located at 400 First St. E., right next to Grandma Linda’s notorious pink door – that’s raising eyebrows with its pirate flag.

Codi Binkley, who founded the restaurant with co-owner Carlo Cavallo, said he raised the flag there with no special plan in mind – but now has no plan to take it down.

“I did it as a joke originally, because Carlo always claims he’s a pirate. … He’s the rum aficionado,” Binkley explained.

The Jolly Roger – a skull and crossbones on a black field – was flying high over Burgers & Vine’s front door for the restaurant’s opening day on Feb. 22. Besides the Cavallo-as-pirate reference, the flag alludes to the restaurant’s “Jolly Roger burger” and the fact that it serves a Jolly Roger brand ale.

But for Binkley, the flag now represents a principle he believes is worth fighting for. After a year’s worth of wrangling with the city over design elements and other particulars, he says he’s tired of what he considers its heavy-handed approach with small businesses.

“It’s just like the pink door thing,” he said, referring to the recent fight over whether a shade of pink at Grandma Linda’s Ice Cream shop was appropriate for the Plaza. That argument ended last Monday, when City Council members upheld a decision by the city’s Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission to approve the color.

The front door of Burgers & Vine sits about 50 feet from that pink door – and over it, on a flagpole built into the structure, flies the Jolly Roger.

“People don’t want change. And change is inevitable,” Binkley concluded.

“We’re not going to fall on this one. We’re going to make a stink about it.”

But Councilmember Ken Brown, a longtime friend of Binkley, draws a distinction between the pirate flag and the pink door.

“Grandma’s ice cream went through the process,” he said. The store’s owners “Came up with the design and laid it all out. There was a long meeting about it, and there was a decision.”

By contrast, Brown said, the owners of Burgers & Vine never sought approval. Instead they raised the Jolly Roger for the opening day event, then left it up.

“The city allows a certain leeway for grand openings and ribbon cuttings, that sort of stuff,” he said. “But there’s a timeframe to those sort of things, and then they have to come down.”

Brown believes this flag qualifies as such an adornment. But he agrees that other flags – such as the American flag, Bear Flag or city of Sonoma flag – are fine to leave up.

“There are 17 flags on the Plaza alone,” Binkley noted. For example, the Swiss Hotel has four flags, Murphy’s has an Irish flag, the Church Mouse has a Mexican flag, and of course, “the Bear Flag’s pretty much everywhere.”

For Brown, those are all fine. “If the Swiss Hotel wants to fly the seven flags of Sonoma, that’s cool,” he said. However, “Is the pirate flag the appropriate flag?

Many residents don’t think so, he said: “They hate it. And it’s not just old folks.” Rather, Brown said, it’s people with a “deep and abiding love for the Plaza and how it looks.”

But Brown – who already had a talk with Binkley, when he discussed the complaints coming from some residents – gave the other side of the argument as well.

“There are those that say Sonoma’s a pirate town,” he said, mentioning the Bear Flag Revolt and the overall rebel spirit that he says is “alive and well.”

In that sense, the Jolly Roger fits, Brown said. However, “The Jolly Roger flag wasn’t one of the seven flags over Sonoma.”

“Codi and I have been friends since he was a little rug-rat,” Brown joked. “I don’t think there was a council member who was more proactive, more willing to help them with their issues than I was. But like I told Cody, the flag is something else.”

For Binkley, leaving the Jolly Roger up has become a gesture of defiance after a year of difficulty getting his restaurant open.

“I wouldn’t want to have any of my friends start a business here in Sonoma,” he said. “This project was a nightmare.”

As to what happens next, “I have no idea,” Binkley said. “We have our lawyers involved.”


  • Lank Thompson

    This is going to ruin Sonoma. Tourist won’t come here. We are doomed.

    • Scotty Bot


      • Scotty Bot

        I want rent to go back to sub-Marin costs.. Lets take this town OFF the map!

  • Mike Stephens

    It is about time this get addressed. How did this hideous awning, cheap looking wine barrel flower boxes that don’t fit in with the historic building and now a Disneyland looking Pirate of Caribbean. What is next?? It is time those that care about the plaza, especially those with some taste step up and stop the madness before our town is a ticky tacky disneyland. Is everyone allowed to fly as many flags as they want? Most towns, especially ones of historic significance have ordinances and hearings for these types of issues. Why don’t we??

  • Jack Shmollie

    All right , so there was a flagpole built into the building . Should it have no flag ? Should they fly a white flag if they end up losing this incredibly important issue which could determine the entire future of this fine town ? Maybe they could add the Rainbow flag ? Think about it , Pirates , LGBT , the whole bondage angle . Sounds like a party to me ! Oh no , forget that , how about a Palestinian or Israeli flag .Can’t you just see what a thrilling City Council meeting this is going to be .There are flags , and all kinds of people everywhere .Some of them I don’t like .To tell you the truth , I’m not crazy about pirates at all . But , if they keep their hands to themselves , who gives a hoot ? Look up a song by an Irish Rock star ( G. Moore) called “After The War ” .The song goes , “After the war , who will you be fighting for ? ” , another part says , “No flag ever stopped a bullet from a gun” .It’s a flag flippin on a pole .Be happy your living to see it . People get cancer for chrissakes .

  • The Village Idiot

    I say leave it up. The pirate flag reflects Sonoma’s spirit and history far more completely and accurately than the bear flag. White European adventurers and settlers came here, butchered all the Native Americans, stole their land and cleaned out all the gold. Sounds like piracy to me. Not long afterwards they butchered all the bears, too. To escape detection and prosecution, they later changed out of their pirate clothes, combed their hair and formed the Chamber of Commerce. It’s all right there in the history books.

  • Sabrina

    From reading many blogs (business and recreational) the knee jerk reactions of a hand full of Sonomans has already made Sonoma the butt of many jokes and known for it’s silly and over the top ability to blow small things out of proportion. If we are going to be hysterically (ooops… historically) accurate then bring the cows back to the town square, bring back the dirt streets, bring back the grocer, bring back the hardware store, bring back the feed store and let’s get this thing done right. If not, then stop wasting everyone else’s time – we are sick to death of hearing a small bunch of nimbys spouting off all the time. Get a life and stop trying to rule everyone else.

    • Phineas Worthington

      In certain circles all over the country, the Historical Society is called the Histerical Society. They rule with an iron fist in other parts of the country. Its a bastion of freedom here by comparison.

  • Karen Adams

    Maybe we ought to hang the idiots that keep fighting this on the flag pole. This is what is great about the Plaza, it is what brings people to Sonoma, the eclectic, something to talk about and take pictures so when they go home they recommend Sonoma, new life. We were tourists here once and when deciding where to visit, we looked online at tourist info sites, if towns were the same, we moved on to somewhere we hadn’t seen that were funky, cool, artsy, filled with eateries to suit everyone. It’s a flag, it’s not a disease. Life is short, live a little. By the way, Burgers & Vine have excellent burgers! We just went a few days ago for the first time and will definitely be back.

  • Delores

    Small town, small minds! Don’t these complainers have anything more important to do?

    • Chris Scott


    • Chris Scott


  • Mark Vogler

    Seriously, #Sonoma? People obviously have it too good here – too cushy with too much time on their hands. Do we really have to take up this issue? This is seriously a #firstworldproblem.

  • Wyneaux

    Well lets see…. the Oakland Raiders, whom I’ve been a fan of for more than 40 years, uses a Pirate logo, and Roger McGuinn, formerly of the Byrds, wrote and recorded a fine song called Jolly Roger and the name most likely came from the French ‘Joli Rouge’ which roughly translates to pleasing or amusing red, so I guess I’ll have to go down and have a nice rare Jolly Roger burger with some Jolly Roger grog! Aye matey?

  • http://www.HarmonyNZ.net/ Lynn Abate-Johnson

    Wrong, Cody. Your flag is not “just like” Gramma Linda’s pink door.
    Sorry. Gotta call you on that distinction. They went through a process and had that color approved via proper channels.
    Still, I don’t think your pirate flag is a big deal either.
    You went through a horrendous process to get your doors open, I am sure of that, being a local business person myself, but it ‘aint the same thing as the door, so be careful how you go about this because you want to attract customers, not alienate them.
    When local business owners are cocky rather than humble, it’s a turn off overall, and the old saying still holds true about “catching more flies with honey than vinegar”. Remember, we live in a new “Social Business” world, so your personal approach is directly tied into your business success, more than ever. Gone are the days of entitlement. We aren’t owed a thing as business owners. Justsayin’ :-)
    Here’s the quote I am referring to, btw:
    “It’s just like the pink door thing,” [Cody] said, referring to the recent fight over whether a shade of pink at Grandma Linda’s Ice Cream shop was appropriate for the Plaza. That argument ended last Monday, when City Council members upheld a decision by the city’s Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission to approve the color.

    • Scotty Bot

      I have to disagree 100%… I was going to avoid this restaurant due to it’s EDK affiliation, however now that I have seen this article, I am going to support their show of rebellion against this tourist traps show of greed under the guise of “historical accuracy”. This town isn’t historical, it is HYSTERICAL…

      • James Marshall Berry

        How is it affiliated with EDK?

        • Jack Shmollie

          They may have got it mixed up with The Meritage .But thanks for asking .It crossed my mind as well .

          • Scotty Bot

            I did, totally meant Meritage.

      • Fah-Q

        OK I give up. What does EDK mean?

        • Scotty Bot

          El Dorado Kitchen.

    • grew up in Sonoma

      I would agree except that the pink door is far more hideous than the flag!

  • Silvia Avila

    This is horrible I went with my husband last week it was about 4:55pm
    and dinner start at 5pm nobody approach us, nobody ask what we doing or
    what we want and after I finally decide to call for service, this girls
    look at me like they have no idea we were there (at this point I was
    ready to live) the hostess said you guys can wait at the bar and she
    turn around and live, when we were about to get comfortable the same
    girl said to us that we can’t seat in that table because this table is
    for dinner only Daaa that’s what we want so she make us get up from the
    table because according to her Dinner is at 5:30pm and that was it, we
    just cant wait to get out of there and we never are going to comeback.
    And we are going to make sure all my friends know this.

    • Scotty Bot

      How is this relevant?

      • David Ian

        No kidding !!!

      • The Village Idiot

        S.Bot — Please, this is Sonoma, where relevance in public debate is considered poor form. It’s, well, not relevant. There may even be an ordinance against it ;-)

        • Scotty Bot

          See I must have forgotten these things, being from the west side and all, I guess I just cannot understand the struggle and plight those on the east side of town have to deal with.

    • Fah-Q

      Well if you talk as bad as you type Silvia, the poor waitress probably couldn’t understand a word you said. Don’t expect a brand new restaurant to be perfect, and try to get a better grasp on the English language.

    • grew up in Sonoma

      I think you are mistaking this forum for YELP. Check it out. I’m not sure how the flag affected your service, food or ability to spell.

      • Scotty Bot

        L O L

  • Scotty Bot

    Just an observation, I am seeing more people pro-flag than anti-flag… Whats more historic than a pirate flag anyways? They predate this tourist trap…

  • David Eichar

    From what I heard, part of the delay was because work was being done in the building without the proper permits. By the way, I don’t know how I feel about the Jolly Roger being flown above the building, but I do support going through the process and getting the proper permits. Not mentioned in the article: what are the current regulations/laws about flag flying on the Plaza? Do any of you reading these comments know?

  • Hanne Gundeid

    As a local sonoma girl, I ran by burgers and vine this morning and I think that flag is exactly what this town needs. I love it. I think people need to lighten up and have a little more fun. I think this town could benifit from this. Times are changing get with it people sonoma will not stay the same nor has it ever.

  • Sweetsinger

    Editor: you misfiled this story. It needs to be under “Entertainment.”

  • Mike Stephens

    I certainly hope 99% of the people commenting here don’t live in the town of Sonoma. This crazy talk is exactly what keeps Sonoma down. The point of this article is that the owners of burger and vine put up a flag without following the set rules. If anyone is able to put anything/everything on their place of business it is against the process set in place by design review and historical preservation. Whether you find the flag acceptable or not is not the issue here. Burger and Vine has nothing to do with EDK. It is part of Meritage.Never been and not inclined to go, but seems like if the owners followed the rules they would have been open sooner and not having this backlash against their pirate flag. It unfortunately opens up a can of worms. Does everyone love the awning? Something for everyone.. Beer, Wine, PIes, Live Music, Burgers, blah blah blah…

    • Fah-Q

      It’s elitist 1%ers like you that have ruined the town I was born and raised in. Only your opinion matters, right? Judging by your past posts, you seem to think you know everything about what everyone should be doing. Seriously, get a life, and a clue. Go hang out in Marin county where everyone is a self-centered no-it-all like yourself.

      • Mike Stephens

        Perhaps you should move to Lake County. I think you might fit in better in that county..You need to get a life and pack your bags.

        • Fah-Q

          You just proved my point perfectly!

    • Wyneaux

      What rules? There are no rules for flying flags…. that is the whole point….
      other than the fact that the whole point is: Who the F*** cares,,,,
      and why do they care so much….
      Ans: They’ve got nothing better to do with their lives !!!!!!!!

  • Chandra Seelye

    I was born and raised in Sonoma and was just there visiting last weekend – I have to say that both times I was around the plaza this weekend – I did not even notice the pirate flag!!

  • In Sonoma Since 1972

    Well, it’s quite apparent that the 18-25 year old “I Got Mine”, “Fah-Q Authority” bandwagon has weighed in on this discussion.

    Maybe the place should be re-named Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Blech…..

  • puff n tuff

    love seeing something in that old building, loved going in there for ice cream as a kid…same with the old Brundages.