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Posted on Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor city ordinance blocks Beer Depot's landmark 'Drive Thru' sign from being erected after it fell

By Lizzy Alfs


Strong winds knocked the "Drive-Thru" sign at The Beer Depot down in April, and a city ordinance is now blocking the sign from being erected again.

Photo from

One day in April, a strong gust of wind sent the flashy vintage “Drive Thru” sign for The Beer Depot, located on East William Street in downtown Ann Arbor, crashing onto the ground outside the long-time convenience store.

The vintage sign, which is believed to be about 50 years old, was significantly damaged.

When the owner of the store, Joe Kouza, went to pull permits to get the sign repaired and reinstalled outside his store, he was informed that a city ordinance would not allow it to be erected again due to city height, size and setback requirements.

As the sign sits in storage, The Beer Depot has launched a “Save Our Sign” blog to rally public support as Kouza considers taking the issue before Ann Arbor’s Sign Board of Appeals.


Ryan Stanton |

“We’re mostly trying to gauge public interest first,” according to The Beer Depot blog. “The appeal process with the city is a rather pricey pursuit, so we’re taking our time, and will base a final decision on public input.”

The “Drive-Thru” sign was installed sometime in the 1960s, when The Beer Depot was a drive-thru beer and wine convenience store, said Ian Gray, a media consultant for The Beer Depot.

“That house was built in 1875, and the attachment was built later as a pharmacy,” he said. “It later became a tire business and then became the beer and wine drive-thru.”

Although the business is no longer a drive-thru since Kouza acquired a liquor license in 2005, the sign has remained a staple at the convenience store.

When the sign blew down, Kouza was told that in order to erect the sign again, it could not be a replica and the costs of restorations to the original sign had to cost less than half of what it would cost for an identical new sign.

According to the ordinance, which restricts signs prior to May 1, 1975, “No nonconforming sign shall be repaired or erected after being damaged if the repair or erection of the sign would cost more than 50% of the cost of an identical new sign.”

Gray said that because it would cost $11,000 to restore the vintage sign - much more than half the cost of a new sign - the only option is to take the issue to the Sign Board of Appeals.

“Although this building is considered historic, we think there’s an odd conflict going on,” Kouza said. “The Historic District Commission doesn’t consider the sign historic, but almost anybody you would ask would say the building wouldn’t be historic without the sign.”

Gray said that to go to the Sign Board of Appeals, it could cost Kouza $6,000 in required design plans and fees, and there is no guarantee the appeal would be granted.

“This is definitely an impractical business decision,” he said. “The owners are appealing to public sentiment to decide whether it’s worth their expense. It’s a rough economy and they are small business owners.”

Wendy Rampson, the city’s planning manager, said it’s “premature” to indicate whether the appeal for The Beer Depot sign could be approved and erected again. She said the sign is too modern to be considered historic.

“There are dates of significance within districts where items were identified and considered historic,” she said. “The sign is more modern than that.”

Gray said that although the sign isn’t technically considered historic, it’s “an incredible slice of Americana.”

“Regardless of whether it’s immaculately maintained, the grittiness of it is what makes people say it’s a classic piece of Americana,” he said. “It’s internationally known as a landmark, there’s not just some small local sentiment about it.”

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


Andrea Zastrow

Fri, Sep 14, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

Sounds like the Ann Arbor Sign Board of Appeals is asking for a little torch and pitchfork action.


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 4:43 a.m.

Tru2Blu76 - Thanks for your post. I'll take your word as to the poor maintenance. And the fact that they don't clear the sidewalks in the winter only adds insult to (almost) injury.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

If they can't have their sign back, I say they need a LEGO version of it for display in their front window. About ten of us and $20 each would probably cover the materials.

Bob Bethune

Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

That building was an ugly eyesore, is an ugly eyesore, and will forever be an ugly eyesore, sign or no sign, unless someone comes to their senses and ensures that the thing gets torn down, and that something that w can look at without convulsively closing our eyes gets put up in its place. Historic preservation, practiced in disciplined moderation and focussed on preserving the best of what has been, is a good thing. Blindly preserving everything that was ever built is merely burying one's head in the sand and keeping it there come hell or high water, trying to pretend that time does not pass and life does not move on. Time does pass. Life does move on. Deal with it.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 6:26 a.m.

I walk past the Beer Depot several times a week and I've known for at least a couple of years that sign would fall over before too long. Basically: this is the story with all businesses: they ignore traditions or distort them ("Happy Xmas - BUY something!"). That sign was poorly maintained and did constitute a potential hazard. ONLY after it came down due to his neglect did the owner start his campaign to evade the rules so he could start all over again neglecting it. BTW: that store owner also owns that attached 1875 house on the corner of 4th & William. Guess who gets ticketed for not clearing his sidewalks of snow and ice during winter? You can tell just by seeing the ticket notice on the door knob of his front door. (Also, of course a pedestrian notices that corner is nearly impassable due to accumulated snow and ice on the walk.) So to those who know the facts, it looks like the city regulations are doing just what they were intended to do, despite the knee-jerk critics' opinion on the matter.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 3:40 a.m.

It's a "bunk district commission" and we should call it that. The Bunk District Commission says.... But we shouldn't call the beer sign art, you're not even supposed to lock your bike to it. In ann arbor, art is where you lock your bike, darn it!


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 2:50 a.m.

MMMM, just like it was okay for UM to destroy the historical facade of the first Ann Arbor High School for that ugly behemoth building of greed on State St., allow the destruction of homes/businesses for another upscale student housing high-rise, utilize public funding for art at the "Justice Center," instead of preserving firefighters, police officers, public services like leaf collection or more timely lawn services at parks. I'll take that historical sign over any of the aforementioned because it reflects a time when Ann Arbor was governed by people not impressed by "shiny things" or bullied by a university bent on destroying the city by buying available property at insane matter where to feed their greed (like that weird parking site near the YMCA, among neighborhood homes).


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 6:37 a.m.

If you mean the "upscale student high rise" known as Zaragon II (or "West") on the corner of Thompson & William streets then you should take into account that "business" was a bank which folded MANY years ago. The bank building was an empty hulk for years.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 12:30 a.m.

I generally support strict zoning regulations (for those who disagree, I say only this: Canton, Southfield, and the Macomb County exurbs). But I think that, for reasons stated in prior posts, a variance is in order here. As for whether the sign was poorly maintained -- or whether even monthly maintenance would have prevented its being blown down -- we simply don't know. Just b/c the sign could have used a coat or two of paint doesn't necessarily mean that it was structurally unsound. It's probably good not to speculate on that issue.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 6:34 a.m.

No need to speculate in this case: the support base was just mortared cement blocks and they finally crumbled with a slight push of the wind. I know because I walk past that place at least a couple times per week (for the past 13 years).


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 11 p.m.

This is not easy. Our business sign (Firestone Huron & Division) fell a couple years ago during a windstorm. We loved the old sign and it was at least 80 years old. The metal pole suspending it rotted out inside and truly I don't know how anyone could have predicted it. While we indeed miss the sign we just have a huge sigh of relief that the huge and heavy thing missed any pedestrians or vehicles when it went down. I would support something that would require old signs to be inspected for structual integrity as a result.

Homeland Conspiracy

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 10:12 p.m.

The "Hysterical Commission" strikes again


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 9:18 p.m.

My prediction: The sign won't be replaced or put back up, and 3 out of the first 6 comments about any story on will be voted the most popular comments.

Jon Saalberg

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

I dunno, but ever since they were particularly rude to my wife 20 years ago, I've always had a bit of dislike for this place. So I'm not really sad to hear they can't put their sign back up.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

I also like the sign and would like to see it return, but $11,000 is alot of money. Perhaps the owner could use some of it to clean up the store and especially the house next door, which really needs to be kept up better.

Jon G.

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

What kind of place prohibits Morgan & York from taking down the "Big Ten" sign in front of their store for historical reasons, and then refuses to let the Beer Depot guy to put his sign back up because it isn't historical?

Tom Teague

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 8:31 p.m.

I believe that the city wanted to remove the Morgan and York sign. From the Arbor Update site 2005 quoting an email from Matthew Morgan: "The City of Ann Arbor has been trying to get us to remove the 'Cheese, Cheese, Cheese' pylon sign in front of the store for years. Unfortunately, when we put a new sign above the entry door, this gave the city sign folks the opening to insist we remove the big crazy neon sign in the front parking lot."

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

So the right solution, according to our almost-sentient city, is to find a much cheaper way to repair the sign.

Tailgate Jim

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 6:39 p.m.

What a piece of "Americana" to lose. With any luck maybe the new "art" in front of city hall will blow down and be put in the scrap yard too.

Mary R. Gray

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 6:13 p.m.

In the summer of 1959 I lived in an apartment on Main Street, very near the Beer Depot. I'm sure the sign was there then, so I think it's older than you said. I feel a sentimental attachment to it too. Hope it gets to go back up.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 6:05 p.m.

Is this the same Historic District Commission that forced them to keep the useless garage doors? Comedy, thy name is historic preservation societies.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

Of course the bureaucratic language of everyone's commissions don't include something like a simple "grandfather" clause. Because it's not something they like, or find historical,.. or "not" a nuisance, there are umpteen paragraphs forcing a business owner to jump through hoops just to understand what's required. Seriously, a rule that states a sign can't be repaired if it costs more than 50% of a new one,.. and it can't be a replica,..?? What a joke! If a business owner wants to spend whatever amount to retain his business's heritage, as long as he's just putting back what was there, there should be no discussion, replica or restoration. I have to laugh every time I see an article that includes the words "Historic District Commission" and "City Planning." Because when you see something with those two names in it, you know some good, well intentioned citizen is about to get screwed by a bunch of people with little common sense, and way too much time on their hands. And as for the cities clueless Planning Manager, Wendy Rampson,.. Were were you really stupid enough to say that this sign is too modern to be historic? I've got news for you,... Whether or not something is historic in nature has a lot more to do with its significance and value to the surrounding area and culture over the years, NOT a simple, arbitrary decision relating to when it was erected. In the 30 years I've been around Ann Arbor, I've watched the City Planning Commission and the Historic District Commission get a lot more of these decisions wrong than right. But please don't get rid of them, the comic relief they provide is good for all of us from time to time.

pooh bear

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 5:51 p.m.

Sorry but Mr. Kouza has only himself to blame for this situation. His deferred maintenance is very visible in the photo at the beginning of the story. What he should do, to maintain it as a work of art, is restore it and hang it inside the business or somewhere where it no longer resembles a sign for something that no longer exists. His crappy infill of the drive thru space and general mess used to be offset by the sign. Too bad he can no longer pretend to be something he isn't. Blaming the historic commission for his problems is just his clever way of deflecting the criticism from himself.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

First Heritage Row, now this. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAH, get a real job and focus on the REAL issues. You're the ones making a joke of yourselves.

Basic Bob

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

Don't mess with the Historical Revision Commission.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

Why doesn't the city just charge the owner a hefty fee to put the sign back up? They can then use those funds to hire a foreign firm to work on a proposal to put a third bike path on Washtenaw. Maybe we can put the new one in the middle of the road, seeing as though we already have a bike path on either side.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

Joe's only mistake was to try to pull a permit in the first place. He just should have quietly put the sign back where it was. If we have idiots in power............we must make our own rules.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

Wasn't there a big brew ha for that one sign on Packard? Morgan and York? I think it was? Everyone rallied to save that sign and won. If the sign is going to be restored and not look so rusty, then why not put it back up? Or just lower to new height standards. Otherwise, let it go and build another sign similar to it and get on with business. As for the remains of the original sign? It could go next to that thing called art at city hall.

Allan Goode

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

While they at at it, restore the drive thru! Since EVERYONE seems to think it should go back, isn't this a no brainer? Oh wait, I forgot who we are talking about.

Tom Teague

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

Two disparate thoughts here: First, I would think that business owners all over the city would take an interest in this. What if the Arborland "A" had blown over, or the Big Ten Party Store Sign been damaged by flying debris? A bit of history and a significant amount of advertising presence for the businesses might be gone forever. Before this enforcement action becomes irreversible precedent, businesses should make their views known to City Council members who may end up debating and adjudicating this in the future. Second, however, don't lose sight of Clownfish's point. The sign fell over in a wind that spared every other vintage sign in town; in fact, the sign itself had survived approximately 50 years without falling over in countless winds.Vintage sign owners need to hold up their part of the bargain and make sure that the signs themselves are secure and sound. If it had fallen on a passerby or a customer's car this story would have a very different telling.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

I was going to say the same thing CBG

Tom Teague

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 5:20 p.m.

Thanks CBG. As you show, the sign is in the city although part of its late-afternoon shadow may fall in York; I'll take RG's point that I should have checked. The Big Ten / M&Y sign is my turnaround point on one of my running routes; even though I'm usually out of breath when I get to it, I was pretty sure it was there yesterday.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

Correction: The Arborland sign is in the city. See boundary map: <a href=",-83.686638&spn=0.015977,0.03283&sll=37.09024,-95.712891&sspn=40.817312,67.675781&t=h&z=15&vpsrc=6" rel='nofollow'>;hl=en&amp;ll=42.256857,-83.686638&amp;spn=0.015977,0.03283&amp;sll=37.09024,-95.712891&amp;sspn=40.817312,67.675781&amp;t=h&amp;z=15&amp;vpsrc=6</a>

Tom Teague

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

One bad example re Arborland that I picked up from an earlier post. My bad. But the sign I was referring to as the Big Ten Party Store sign is the one up in front of Morgan and York that the new owners almost had to remove in 2005. It was there yesterday.

Ron Granger

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

The Arborland sign is in York township. I believe the big ten sign is gone. The original owners sold out, I think back around 2000. The store hasn't been the same, but it is still a great local store.

Bill Floyd

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

Save the Sign: I have been coming to A2 since the late 60's, and the memory of the Beer Depot store and sign are comforting reminders of the town. In the 60's the Main Street area was desolate and not the exciting district it is today, but the Beer Depot sign has remained a fixture throughout. The sign is a great example of Doo Wop design - and certainly should be reinstalled with as much authenticity as possible. Clearly, the solution must be safe, but to replace it or extensively rehab it, would not be appropriate. That would render the sign: &quot;... as Epcot is to Europe...&quot;. The patina of the sign is our collective experience, and should remain. Please see: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I live in another college town, Evanston, IL, and can relate to the thorny issues civic and business leaders face in a world that is polarized to the point of often being dysfunctional, and seems to be increasingly so. Ann Arbor is not a small town in Michigan, but instead sits on a national and global stage. It is blessed with dedicated and smart civic leaders, who may benefit in looking beyond Ann Arbor and the current zoning rules. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> A good deal of practical decision making is appropriate. I believe: &quot;It's hard to be a hero.&quot; and today, in this situation the town needs heroes. My Dad, always the optimist and vibrant personality, who recently died at the age of 95, frequently remarked when he noticed that his landmarks were no longer there: &quot;They are trying to wipe out every shred of my existence'. Please may the sign be preserved in the most straightforward and practical way with dispatch.

Ron Granger

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:39 p.m.

Well said, Bill. That patina is everything! The neon, etc, don't have to work. A &quot;new&quot; version just wouldn't be the same, even in the original style.

Ron Granger

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:12 p.m.

For those who hate the sign, how about a generic Rite-Aid on that corner? You know, just like every other corporate Rite-Aid? Don't you just love that uniform, sedate corporate styling... The same wherever you go, coast to coast. They even all smell the same. Because what Ann Arbor really needs are more corporate drug stores and less historic signs and buildings...

Bill Floyd

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 6:54 p.m.

Totally Agree - See the great book &quot;The Geography of Nowhere&quot; by James Kunstler <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> And listen to Joni Mitchell's anthem on all this: <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;qid=1317668001&amp;sr=8-1</a> PS: Chicago Trib and Detroit Free Press both covered this today

Ron Granger

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:07 p.m.

I *love* that sign and have photographed it many times. However, I like the oldness. If it looked new, it wouldn't be nearly so cool. It was smashed, rusted and broken before it fell. Very little of the lighting worked. Of course it's even worse now. Why not do some minimal repair and put it back up? Maybe they can repair it a bit every few years - you know, the maintenance they were ignoring? Let's face it - the sign fell because they did not repair it. Not at *all*. This is their own fault. I'm certain they can put the old sign back up without putting a new one up, and without completely restoring it. Our zoning laws are no different than other cities. If you don't regulate signs, businesses will put up billboards everywhere. I totally support those laws.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

That might keep the cost below 50% of a new one also. Like it.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

I love that sign. It's a part of Ann Arbor. I vote to clean it up, reinforce it, get the lights in working order and put it back in place! There should be a grandfather clause to protect beloved icons of Ann Arbor. I think I feel the same about the sign at Ann Arbor Muffler............


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

The &quot;Historic Commission&quot;? Pleeeeeze. When I read this story I couldn't help but, think about that revolting $750K rusty I-beam. The arrogance of the powers to be in A2 are unbelievable.

nick pulver

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

In the late 1960's my uncles, Louis and Alfred Bassett purchased the Beer Depot, I cannot remember if the sign was up as I was in the Air Foece at the time. I do remember it was up in 1967. If I remember correcly it has been there since the Beer Depot opened with drive thru sales, whenever that was. The Depot has been a part of AnnArbor's history for over 60 years and should remain the landmark that it has been. A restriction on costing more then 1/2 the cost of new is ridiculous as the historic value is priceless. If the sign at Michigan Stadium on the corner of Stadium aand Main blew down would the same restrictions apply? As long as it doesn't interfer with traffic or present a hazzard allow it to be put back up. Nick Pulver, Formerly from Milan

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

The problem with the beer sign is that it encourages drinking among students and adds a certain grunge element that city council doesn't like. Yet, we can have a shop dedicated to Thongs and Bongs right over on Liberty and council seems perfectly happy with that!?


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 10:22 p.m.

Umm, yeah. When I was a student, I know I would have drunk a lot less had that sign not been there. The sign encourages drinking among students? Puh-leeze.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 9:38 p.m.

Everything goes hand in hand if you know what I mean.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

Too much brain power in A2 for me. If cars recieve a historic plate at the age of 25 how can a 50 year old sign not be historic? How many tickets issued to out of towners for crosswalk violations? A local business is willing to spend $11,000 to fix an (old not historic) sign. Then, if the public is in agreement he can spend $6,000 more for a guess? Wow! Your town is too smart for me.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

Do this. Don't do that. Can't you read the sign?


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

Five Man Electrical Band did it first


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

Ugly sign. It was time for it to go.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 2:31 p.m.

Not sure if you noticed, but as of last week, ugly is the new trend here in town.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.



Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

The city's sign ordinance endangers all the town's vintage signs and needs to be changed. Just think of all the great vintage signs around town that could eventually disappear: Webers, Ann Arbor Muffler, Arborland's A, Westgate's W, etc....... RIP Ypsi-Arbor!


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

I'm not in favor of the morality police, and I know this comment will probably be result in my being labeled as a fully paid up member. But, when I moved to AA in 1993, I was horrified to see that a drive thru liquor store was allowed to operate, let alone advertise with a big sign. With all the concerns about drinking and driving, especially for younger drivers, I have to say that in spite of the historic nature and cool design, I think the community can do without a sign advertising drive through alcohol. It might be a good idea to make sure that people can actually stand up and walk before you sell them more booze.

Stephen Landes

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

I agree with you -- drive through liquor stores are simply wrong. I have no particular love for the Beer Depot. HOWEVER, this could have been any business sign that reflects the character of our town. It just happens to be the Beer Depot. I think it is a huge problem to have such restrictive government regulations hampering our local businesses. If damage is done to a business I think we should presume that the repairs will be made to the pre-damage condition and immediately give permits for that work. The only questions should arise if the business decides to take advantage of the opportunity to do something else; then the normal permit/zoning procedures should apply.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

You live in the city with the famous &quot;Hash Bash&quot;. I'd love to read your posts regarding that.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:40 p.m.

As usual, I agree with you DonDee. Don't be the morality police. Really? You think a sign pointing a long ago sealed up garage door will do anything to promote drinking and driving? If so, Ohio must be one big drunken demolition derby.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

There are a lot of states where drive through liquor and beer stores are the norm.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

I think the community can do without fully paid-up members of the morality police.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

Thats great. Pay taxes forever, your sign comes down and you have to first beg and then pray and finally pay the city a surcharge to put it back up. You really must be kidding. Wake up Ann Arborites. There is hardly any fond memories of old A2 left. But we have a Geman sculpture.

Tex Treeder

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

Signs like this give character to a city. Historic District Commission: Historic doesn't just mean late 19th century. Historic also means what makes this city uniquely Ann Arbor.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:07 p.m.

See below.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:59 p.m.

If they can't get it back up, I suggest the owner see if the Henry Ford Museum would like to have it.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

$11,000 to repair that little sign?!?! I'm in the wrong business!!!


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:54 p.m.

I say the sign is total art and very historic and should be allowed to be reset. The city would do better at taking care of the real needs of the city i.e. roads, safety, sewers, etc. I vote - awesome art work and please reet.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:45 p.m.

&quot;When the owner of the store, Joe Kouza, went to pull permits &quot; I think there is a lesson here.....I know what I'm (not) going to do in the future.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:29 p.m.

Sometimes I think many people in Ann Arbor have just too much time on their hands and make trouble for themselves and their residents.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:23 p.m.

I agree the sign....IS ART!!!!!! Instead of denying its repair we need to throw money at him to fix it.....or let him fix it on his own dime. Its as much art as the stuff we have been buying.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 4:24 p.m.

Memorabilia, yes. Art, not so much.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

I do sympathize with the owners of the sign. However, it was not maintained properly or it would not have blown over, and, it is no longer a drive through business so the sign no longer pertains. Tough call.

Albert Howard

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

The 'Beer Depot' sign was an eye sore. There is an adjacent funeral home that can handle all of the homegoing arrangements. Wind blows down sign. Windy City has the last word.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:17 p.m.

Not only should they be allowed to repair their sign, the state should allow them to resume drive-thru service.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

This sign is a far, far better example of quality public art than the new urinal is. We want it back up!


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

Rampson sez: "There are dates of significance within districts where items were identified and considered historic. The sign is more modern than that." A few weeks ago the Planning Commission ruled that a style of fence, clearly used historically but somehow not within the guidelines of &quot;taste&quot; of the Commission, had to be removed from a residence in the Historic District. Stack that on top of the bizarre requirement that the costs of restoration cannot equal more than 50% of the cost of a new sign and you begin to see the real agenda - complex and arbitrary regulations whose primary result is generating revenue.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

Overheard Brady Hoke quipping, &quot;It's art for God's sake! When do we flash mob the Mayor's office?

mike gatti

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 11:41 a.m.

Come on Ann Arbor, just leave the guy alone and let him put his sign back up. Why does our city have to behave like this? The sign was there forever. He's trying to make a buck. He's got mouths to feed and he ain't hurting anybody. Isn't that enough for you?

free form

Mon, Oct 10, 2011 : 5:01 p.m.

a2cents, Why does it have to be all or nothing? Understanding this situation and granting this business owner permission to reinstall the sign does NOT mean that suddenly there are no restrictions on anyone. The city should look at these things on a case by case basis and weigh the pros and cons. This is the way sane people make decisions.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:37 p.m.

The almighty buck... I want to convert my (residential) garage into a retail business, replete with gaudy, flashing sign. I have mouths to feed and would try to make a buck. Guess it's ok, now where to begin?


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 11:39 a.m.

yep. our city government in action. goin' back to 1875 cuz nothin' has happened in between then and now. soon, if you live in reach of the historic autocrats, you will not be allowed to park any MV later than 1890 in your drive. and to make it better for weekend football guests, you will be required to dress like prairie settlers and milk cows.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 11:14 a.m.

Let the protectors of what is aesthetic and historical have their way. What do you need a new sign for anyway? There are already two signs on the building that state &quot;Beer Depot&quot;. Besides, I've never heard anyone in my 25 years in AA describe how to find this business by referring to the big neon sign. It's always been &quot;the funky small beer and liquor joint across from the Williams St. parking structure&quot;. Oh yeah, and &quot;park in the Consumer's Power lot&quot;.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 6:07 p.m.

I've only been in AA for 20 years, so you win there. But I've never heard it referred as anything *other* than the Beer Depot.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 11:13 a.m.

! That sign is Great! It IS part of Ann Arbor's history. I hate beer, but I love the Beer Depot. I have live in Ann Arbor all my life, pretty much the same amount of time as that sign. I would rather see the city (me as taxpayer) pay for it a spart of the art in public places. Frankly, I like that sign better than the tree sculpture in West Park, and WAY more than &quot;ART&quot; bicycle racks.

Steve Hendel

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 11:10 a.m.

Why did it blow over in a wind (thus posing a potentially serious hazard to life and property) which seems to have spared every other outdoor sign in town? What does that say about how well it was mIntained over the years?


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

I saw this sign fall and was talking with the manager right after it hit the ground. If memory serves he wasn't allowed to perform &quot;maintenance&quot; to the sign because it was a grandfathered feature. Read - no repair, no painting, no nuthin' and let's hope it does fall over so the City can get rid of it. The reason it fell was that the cement base holding it up was holding water against the base of the sign and it rusted through. The wind finally worked on the base long enough that it cracked in half and the sign came down. It just missed the ramp of the truck that was unloading and, luckily, nobody was under it when it fell. I believe that the folks at Morgan and York on Packard are saddled with a similar issue. Take heart though, if the Historic Commission, etc, have their way, pretty soon we'll be completely without texture and look as vanilla as the next town.


Tue, Oct 4, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

I'll concede the point to you. And hope the sign is not gone forever. I remember the sign from at least the early 60s.

Tom Teague

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

It's absolutely relevant to the discussion, jcj. I support the idea of re-erecting the sign and find the ordinance's reliance on the cost of replacement vs repair to be rather odd. At the same time, I don't think the definition of vintage should be extended to mean &quot;in disrepair.&quot; If we give this business owner the right to restore the sign, the responsibility of maintaining it safely goes along with that.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

I was wondering the same thing, Steve. If proper maintenance had been performed to insure the safety of the general public, it wouldn't have blown down and this would be a non-story. I walk by that location regularly and have noticed the rust and decay of the sign and it's supporting structure for some time.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

Says nothing and has no bearing on the issue!


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 11 a.m.

do you suppose Blue U would be held to the same standards


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 10:58 a.m.

Bad week for Ann Arbor; lost the beer sign (a business will be hurt) and gained a new rusty looking &quot;I&quot; beam called art (tax payers lost $750,000). Moving in the wrong direction for sure.

Jimmy McNulty

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 10:48 a.m.

The bureaucracy in action here is almost laughable, until you consider the plight of owner Joe Kouza. Something like this should be a slam-dunk in getting a variance, but Alan Goldsmith's comment above says it all.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 10:41 a.m.

u will lose. this city does not want to keep it like it used to be. nice down town where people can remember back in time. so putting up the same sign at the same height is really the way it should be. changing the height and design would not be right. do not worry the money they get will go towards art and the put gas in cars for the idle law.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

Well, I have to agree. After all, the Beer Depot didn't really care to keep it on good working order, that is clearly self evident by its fall.

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 10:11 a.m.

"The Historic District Commission doesn't consider the sign historic, but almost anybody you would ask would say the building wouldn't be historic without the sign." No the &quot;historic' commission has their own quaint view of history--you know, the correct color for window shutters, fences from 125 years ago are incorrect, but 90 years ago are tres chic, and approving solar panels for roofs because those are politically correct and not historically correct, but the 50s are...oh just not REAL history. Welcome to Ann Arbor.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 9:47 p.m.

I was waiting to be the 200th thumbs up for this comment but dinner is ready so 199 will have to do! Is there anything that can be done about our &quot;Historic&quot; District Commission? Any legal challenges left to try?


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

I wonder if this will be resolved like Heritage Row... They once vehemently opposed it, and now are crawling back begging and pleading for it. Get it together, they're an absolute joke.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:37 p.m.

The Historic District Commission is a farce. Don't pay any attention to them.


Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 1:04 p.m.

Just ask the owners of the Parthenon about the HDC's random use if &quot;historic&quot;!!!

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 : 12:19 p.m.

well said