RALEIGH — Faded-looking cursive letters painted along the Glenwood South roofline point the way to The Rockford restaurant, but city sign rules could force the business to remove the lettering.
Owners of The Rockford will plead with the citys Board of Adjustment on Monday to let the sign stay. Theyll be armed with an online petition thats attracted more than 1,000 signatures since it was posted on Change.org on Tuesday evening.
The letters designed to look like theyve been on the historic building for decades were installed by a local artist last year. Jason Tran, The Rockfords general manager and chef, said the second-floor location was making the restaurant nearly invisible, making it hard to compete after 20 years on Glenwood South.
Our sales jumped up at least 40 percent when we reopened (after the renovation), and its held steady thanks to the sign, Tran said.
Tran admits he didnt seek city permits for the sign, because painting directly on the brick wasnt the traditional sign model. It might have been an oversight on our behalf, he said.
Raleighs rules base sign sizes on the linear footage of the side of the building facing the street. By that metric, The Rockfords sign is simply too big.
The Rockfords case comes as Raleigh looks to update its sign rules following a controversial proposal that would restrict storefront window displays. On Tuesday, the City Council appointed an 11-member sign task force made up of business owners, neighborhood leaders and a representative from the citys appearance commission.
The group will seek feedback and make a recommendation about the window sign rules and will consider other complaints about Raleighs rules. Some City Council members say they dont want to change the existing rules, but others think its time for a major overhaul.
The appointed group will look at restrictions on profile signs the list of businesses at a strip centers entrance as well as what colors are allowed.
Jennifer Martin, who heads the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, said The Rockford issue shows that the citys rules should let businesses pursue unique ways to draw attention. One idea is to have an appointed board such as the city appearance commission review each design.
We restrict creativity, she said. What if we did allow more creativity? What if its not viewed as just a sign?
Martin said The Rockfords painted lettering is a prime example of a sign that does more than just advertise. Its been viewed as artwork, she said. A lot of people thought it was historic.
She said The Rockford isnt the only business that has struggled to understand the sign rules and found itself in violation. A lot of business owners dont know the proper procedure to get permits for signage, she added.
If the Board of Adjustment doesnt approve the sign Monday, itll have to be painted over. Tran said that would be a $10,000 job on top of the legal fees already spent on the fight. Our goal is to let them see that this is a unique situation, he said.
Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter