The front of Summitt Piano and Organs on Lee Hwy in Chattanooga. Photo by Dan Kennedy/WRCBtv.com
The doughnut mural saga continues in downtown Chattanooga. Owners of the local store plan to go to City Council Tuesday to present a petition with thousands of signatures supporting the bakery’s doughnut mural.
Inspectors with the city told the bakery it would have to take the mural down, saying it was against a long-standing sign ordinance.
In the meantime, business is booming for the Koch's Bakery. A steady crowd Monday morning bought doughnuts and signed a petition at the counter. More than 550 people have signed the petition in the store and another 1,500 have signed it online in an effort to keep the outdoor mural.
“It’s crazy,” said customer Quay Harris. “I think it’s beautiful. I mean, the art in the city adds to the culture. I like it.”
This isn’t the first time the city’s sign ordinance has caused a stir.
In 1994, inspectors cited Summitt Pianos and Organs for having a large advertisement on the building in the form of a keyboard. The store had just moved to its Lee Highway location when it was cited. But a judge ultimately ruled in favor of Summitt’s sign, allowing them to essentially be grandfathered in, without facing court fines or city sanctions.
In 1999, Chattanooga’s Little Giant Produce fought city hall and won. Inspectors had cited the Highway 58 fruit stand for violating the ordinance, claiming the store had too much artwork on its front walls. But Judge Walter Williams dismissed the case in April of 1999. According to WRCB archives, Williams called the case “silly” and said it “just doesn’t make sense.”
The sign ordinance dates back to 1986.
“I remember the days when you couldn’t walk down the sidewalk with all the temporary signs on the sidewalk,” said Gary Hilbert, Director of Chattanooga’s Land Development Office. “It was an effort to clean up. The City was coming out of that era when Walter Cronkite had said we’re the dirtiest city in the United States.”
Hilbert, whose office is in charge of enforcing the ordinance, said officials wrote the sign ordinance as one way to keep the city clean.
In the meantime, workers at Koch’s Bakery plan to go to City Council Tuesday with the petition and boxes of doughnuts. Customers have bought more than 30 dozen boxes of the treats to send with the bakers to City Hall.