Frosty the Snowman, a clown and a pilgrim are some of the supporters of a change to the city’s sign ordinance that prohibits the use of signs — or in this case, costumed characters — near public streets.
Wearing a queen’s robe and crown, Louie Bowen appealed to the Raleigh City Council’s Law and Public Safety committee Tuesday to change the ordinance so she could have costumed characters draw attention to her Glenwood Avenue costume shop. Bowen’s shop,
was issued a violation by a city inspector in October, but she continued to have her costumed advertising stand on the road.
By city law, the costumed characters count as signs and require a special event permit, which can only be used for 30 days and received only twice within the lifetime of a business. Though not only used for this purpose, Assistant City Manager Daniel Howe said that the law’s intent was for grand opening and closing events.
Employees holding signs directing traffic toward a business are also violating sign ordinances.
Since Hughie and Louie’s operates year round, Bowen said the law puts her at a disadvantage to her competitors that pop up during Halloween and close immediately after. She said she would be content with being allowed to apply for the special events permit several times a year.
Jim Coley, the owner of a Liberty Tax franchise, said he also received a violation from the city for having someone near the street lure people toward his business. He said that it is a cheap but effective form of advertising for his business.
Councilor and Committee Chair Mary-Ann Baldwin said she believes that the law should still enforce keeping people away from the street for safety reasons.
The Law and Public Safety Committee agreed that the issue was too complicated to render a decision immediately. They requested a seven-member task force to study the issue and report back three months after its first meeting.