A Huntington Beach bar was cited for erecting a sign thanking military veterans for their service, which has generated a backlash against city officials.
Perched atop Johnny’s Booze and Pool, the sign reads: “Thank a veteran for your freedom,” with the National League of POW/MIA Families logo next to it. But the sign is being threatened after city code enforcement officials asked the bar’s owners to produce proper permits for the sign or remove it and face a fine of nearly $1,000.
The bar’s owner, Johnny Kresimir, told the Huntington Beach Independent he was surprised by the city notice. The sign, he added, has been in the same place for six years.
“If the sign goes down, it’s not going to hurt our business. It’s just going to hurt the community,” Kresimir said.
A notice was left on the bar’s door Monday after an anonymous complaint was received earlier in the day, according to the city. But that action has since generated a backlash against the city, on social media and and in the form of an online petition in favor of the sign.
Kresimir took to Facebook, alerting the public to the fact that the city was giving him two days to remove the metal structure or he would be fined.
Veterans and supporters of the saloon chimed in, posting reasons why the sign should remain. Even Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Harper voiced his support for the fixture, saying he would defend it if the issue came before the City Council.
Kresimir, meanwhile, said he has cooled off a bit since then and spent much of Tuesday afternoon talking with city officials.
“They’ve contacted me and said that they won’t fine us until we’re able to meet and talk about the sign,” Kresimir said.
Johnny’s saloon opened in Huntington Beach in 2003 after moving from Hemet after Kresimir’s father died. The bar added the sign above its portion of the strip mall roughly six years ago, although Kresimir noted that the metal structure holding the sign had been there well before he moved in.
But Huntington Beach officials say they need to ensure the structure is safe.
“As with any structure — especially one that is placed on a rooftop — we want to ensure that the structure is sound and engineered correctly,” Planning Director Scott Hess said in a statement. “We have been unable to locate a building and electrical permit for the roof sign, so we need the owner to demonstrate that it has been permitted.”
For his part, Kresimir said that if he’s forced to take the sign down, he’ll invite veterans from throughout the community to pay their last respects.