North Side flower shop removes neon sign over permit

February 17, 2012 3:29:41 PM PST
The LaSalle Flower Shop has removed its antique neon sign after the city told its owner a permit was required for it.

The sign, with its porcelain enamel face, has hung over the sidewalk since 1934.

"It was sad," said Margot Sersen, owner of LaSalle Flowers. "There's something missing, something missing from the store. I looked at it and said, oh my God, what happened to my sign."

The unique sign was taken down Thursday after Sersen got a violation notice from the city for not having appropriate sign permits.

Sersen bought the business in 1974. She says she was never informed about the need for permits. She also says she learned that with a now widened LaSalle Street her sign is too close to the street and will need to be moved to the corner.

Sersen expects it will cost her thousands of dollars to get permits to take down the sign, put the sign back up and for having the sign over the public way.

"Tell people what to expect, and then we will do it, you know. It's not that we want to circumvent the system. We just want to make sure that we are aware of what's going on," said Sersen.

A spokeswoman for the city's business affairs department says inspectors were responding to a complaint about flowers on the sidewalk when the inspector issued the violation about the sign

"Any sign in Chicago requires a sign permit and one that hangs over the public way also requires a public way use permit," said LaSalle Flowers escaped notice and has not had to pay for the public way use permit before," Jennifer Lipford, city spokesman.

Pasquale Montana, owner of City Scent's flower shop, learned about the city's permit rule two years ago. He says after the sign for his store had been up for 10 years he was told he needed a permit. He says he didn't get the permit in time and had to pay a fine.

"I didn't know what to think," said Montana. "I thought it was a new way to collect taxes."

Montana says he now pays for the permits. But when he wanted to move the sign recently he was quoted $5,000 in order for the contractor to comply with all of the city's permitting. Montana decided to leave the sign where it is.

LaSalle Flowers did not have to pay any fines and expects to put back a restored sign on the corner, not over the sidewalk.