New Billboard Almost Certainly Breaking the Law

GM was out on M St last weekend walking over to the Georgetown Running Company to pick out some new running shoes when he came across the garish billboard seen above. It’s been applied to the windows of the currently vacant space between North Face and the (also vacant) Philadelphia Cheesesteak Factory. The building is owned by East Banc.

The ad is for a beer called “Landshark Lager” an Anheuser-Busch beer made for Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville restaurant. While the yellow parts of the sign above are plastic adhesive signs, the black rectangle is actually a big screen TV playing ads for the beer:

This sign almost certainly breaks the law. While some building can get away with huge signs announcing their impending opening (like there was at the North Face store) this doesn’t appear to be announcing any new establishment. That is, at least GM hopes it’s not. We don’t need something as incredibly cheesy as a Margaritaville in Georgetown.

A sign like this would need to be approved by the Old Georgetown Board (See clarification below).  According the the OGB’s minutes, there was no such approval granted. And GM would be incredibly surprised had approval been granted. The OGB slaps down applicants when their lettering is a few inches too tall. There is no way they’d approve a billboard like this, especially with the television. (GM’s uncertain whether it would also need approval from DDOT. For what it’s worth there have been no public space permits issued recently for this property. Either way it would still need approval from the OGB.)

While you might not find this sign particularly egregious, allowing it to stay would set a bad precedent. In this market downturn, Georgetown has several large empty buildings. If each one were to rent its windows out to Madison Ave. it would create a whole bunch of visual pollution.

UPDATE: GM heard word that the legality of the sign is a little more complicated than he first thought. Apparently it won’t fall under OGB jurisdiction until it’s been there 60 days. However, it is likely governed by the Historical Preservation Review Board and there is no record of the HPRB approving the signage during any recent meeting.

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5 Comments

Filed under Around Town

5 responses to “New Billboard Almost Certainly Breaking the Law

  1. jmw

    Doesn’t bother me any more than the visual of empty storefronts (in fact less so). Share your hope, though, that this does not forebode the arrival of a margaritaville … BTW is AB compensating you for the advertising? I had not previously heard of ‘Landshark Lager.’ : )

  2. I’ve never been to a Margaritaville restaurant, but just the chance that the Parrothead King himself would come to Georgetown to inaugurate it makes me want one on M Street.

  3. GTown

    This entire post is just a rant by the Georgetown Metropolitan. All the GM does is talks about his/her’s opinions towards the advertisement and video display and tries to justify it by citing the OGB and HPRB and the advertisement’s “violations”. The fact of the matter is, someone paid for the advertisement to go up and I am sure that they have done their research, more than the GM has, to make sure that this advertisement is legal. I think that GM has lost touch with reality and needs to get back to reporting changes that happen in Georgetown not just his/her’s own personal opinions or agenda.

  4. GM

    Fair enough (although I’ve never hid the fact that I mix my opinions in with my reporting.)

    But in this case, it really is a violation. I just had my agencies wrong. I’ll write more about it tomorrow, but the short story is that EastBanc needed to get permission from the Office of Planning and didn’t based upon a mistaken belief that if it’s temporary no permit is necessary. The Office of Planning has notified them of the violation and if the sign doesn’t come down by Monday they will be fined $2,000.

    In my opinion, the possible proliferation of billboards in empty windows is a real change that could negatively affect Georgetown. That the law bans it without permission merely reflects the fact that the physical form of Georgetown is very much a product of the laws that protect it. So yes, I don’t like this ad, but I dislike even more that this ad was put up illegally.

    I agree with jmw that empty windows are bothersome as well. Perhaps a middle ground could be found allowing some form of advertising over these windows. But that middle ground ought to be found through the legal process, not around it.

    Having all these acronymous entities getting hung up on paint color can sometimes seem pretty silly. But Georgetown’s primary competitive advantage as a retail district is its sense of historic place. It must be protected, even from land sharks.

  5. Pingback: Update on the Landshark Lager Sign «

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