Tustin Color Guard Orders Restaurant to Hold the Pink

First came the flap over the purple wall at the Tustin Market Place. Now, city officials say, the pink awning on Fat Freddy’s has to go.

They have ordered the owners of Fat Freddy’s 50’s Diner on El Camino Real to tear down its dark pink awning and replace it with a turquoise one.

City planners say turquoise--the color the awning used to be--is more compatible with the building and surrounding properties.

The restaurant’s owners said they changed awning colors about a year ago but didn’t ask for permission because they didn’t know they were supposed to, said co-owner Chris Lagaris. The old turquoise awning, he said, was dirty, ripped and covered with graffiti.


“We just tried to clean it up,” he said. “We were totally unaware we had to ask permission from the city to change the color. . . . The rose color was a ’50 color--you know, pink Cadillacs and things like that.”

The commission first got wind of the offending awning last August when it considered a request for a neon sign at Fat Freddy’s.

“We have been going back and forth with them over the awning for eight months,” said Christine Shingleton, director of the city’s Community Development Department. “The commission told them in August that they had to take care of it.”

The last flap over decorator colors started about a year and a half ago when residents and city officials in Tustin and Irvine complained about a bright purple wall at Tustin Market Place. In response, the Irvine Co. repainted the eight-foot wall deep brick red but later worked out a compromise with the city and painted it a more subdued purple.

As a “significant architectural element,” Fat Freddy’s awning is subject to review by the Tustin Community Development Department and must fit with the surrounding area, according to city code.

“I didn’t really care what color it was,” Commissioner Ed Shaheen said, “but I went along with what staff wanted and the rest of the commission wanted. Then I suggested red, white and blue. Most of the commission wanted turquoise, the original color. I’m not one for all those fancy colors.”

Lagaris, whose diner sports black and white checked trim, turquoise window frames and a black tile roof, said he doesn’t understand why turquoise is acceptable and rose, the color the manufacturer calls the awning, is not.

“They’re both the same type of color,” he said.


Co-owner Steve Xenos said they do not want to get involved in a dispute with the city, though, and will tear down the awning in the next two or three months. He said the new awning will cost $6,000.