Arlington zoning officials target cigar 'sign'

By |
Photo - Zoning officials in Arlington have told Smokey Shop III that the mural on the business' building violates the county's sign ordinance. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner photo)
Zoning officials in Arlington have told Smokey Shop III that the mural on the business' building violates the county's sign ordinance. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner photo)
Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

Arlington officials have told the owner of a cigar shop that he must remove the cigar from a mural he recently had painted on his building.

This is the second time they have told a local business to remove a mural that they say violates the county's sign ordinance.

Two days after the owner of Smokey Shope III in Crystal City paid a group of traveling artists $1,000 to paint a mural of a man smoking a cigar on the front of his building, county zoning officials told the business it must remove it.

Because the business sells cigars and the mural features a cigar, county zoning official Jessica Alexander said the mural was classified as a sign. And because the "sign" is promoting something the store sells, Alexander said it broke the ordinance and had to be removed.

"This was not something we expected [to be an issue]," store manager Salim Amin said of the mural. "We're raising questions about their decision."

The county's ruling on the sign mirrors that of an earlier decision regarding a 960-square-foot painting of cartoon dogs, bones and paw prints at Wag More Dogs, an Arlington dog day care center.

Store owner Kim Houghton declined to cover or repaint portions of the mural despite the county's demands, saying the sign ordinance was unconstitutional and the mural was nothing more than art.

After two years in court, a federal appeals court ruled in the county's favor in May.

Since then, the "sign" has been covered by a tarp. And although she still thinks the ordinance "takes away from the artistic value of something that's not a sign at all," Houghton said Wednesday she plans to paint new animals over all the dogs, bones and paw prints in the coming weeks.

The zoning officials are not ordering Smokey Shope III to get rid of the entire mural, thanks partly to a petition signed by neighboring businesses showing support of the "sign," Amin said.

But before a final decision on whether to challenge the county's decision is made, Amin said he is waiting for store owner "Smokey" Atta to return from his vacation in Jamaica.

A Route 66 sign has been placed over the tip of the cigar until Atta returns.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Taylor Holland

Staff writer
The Washington Examiner