Diner Owner Could Face Prosecution for Displaying American Flag Banner
By Jerry A. Kane
George Fotakis, owner of the Four Seasons Diner along Route 9 in Rio Grande, New Jersey, has been ordered by zoning officers to take down an American flag banner or face prosecution and fines of up to $1,000.
“Even though it may have an image of the American flag on the string banner, the string banners are not permitted.”
Every holiday Fotakis decorates his Cape May County diner; and last month to honor Independence Day, he strung red, white, and blue pennants in his parking lot, along with a row of small American flags on the lawn, flag window stickers, and flag posters on the sides of diner booths.
But Middle Township zoning officers showed up and ordered him to take down the illegal pennant display.
“There is an ordinance saying you can’t fly stringed banners or pennants going from the ground up to your building”—Mark Mallett, Township Administrator
Fotakis then replaced the pennants with American flag banners, but the officers returned and ordered the flag banners down too.
“These types of pennants create a distraction to drivers. That’s why they’re not permitted…. If he wants flags in the ground or flags off his building, that’s fine.”—Mark Mallett
Code enforcers see flag banners as a distraction for drivers, yet they don’t see American flags draped from buildings or strewn randomly throughout parking lots as distracting to drivers. They also claim that banners are a clear violation of the township’s sign ordinance, yet the same ordinance states that “the American flag may be flown or displayed without limitation.”
“People are very cooperative and they understand that we have rules that are in place and ordinance in place they must follow and abide by.”—Mark Mallett
Middle Township code enforcers have visited Fotakis’ diner four times now, and the next visit could result in the issuance of a court summons or fine.
“[W]e’re very business-friendly. We’ve never gone out to try to hurt business or prohibit business, but we try to have some uniformity so it’s aesthetically pleasing.”—Susan DeLanzo, Middle Township Mayor
This is the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, and Fotakis intends to keep the banner and the flag display up through September 11 in remembrance of those who died that day.
For more on the story, see Middle Township diner owner says he’ll resist order to remove American flags, Controversy Surrounds American Flag, and Diner Flag Flap 1:38 Video.