Restaurant owner unhappy over provincial law against sandwich board signs dresses up as clown to drum up business
Restaurant owner unhappy over provincial law against sandwich board.
Charlie Roach is not clowning around when it comes to P.E.I.’s signage law.
He’s fed up with the province because it won’t let the Sou’West Bar and Grill in New London put up a sandwich board at the corner of Route 6 and Route 20, directing traffic down to the restaurant.
Roach is one of two investors who purchased the eatery two years ago.
Sandwich boards are not permitted off-site. The province passed laws making that the case in 2001 to prevent the countryside from getting cluttered.
Still, they put the sandwich board at the corner. Someone complained and had it removed so they put it back and it was removed again, and again, and again. The province sent a cease and desist letter, threatening the operator with a $1,500 fine.
So, Roach took matters into his own hands, went to the store and bought a clown suit. He wears the sandwich board sign over his clown clothes.
“The sign police took our sign away and we needed an alternative,’’ Roach said Friday as he stood on the corner of Routes 6 and 20 donned in his colourful wig, big nose and bright socks. “I wanted to direct some traffic down to our beautiful restaurant so I thought why not dress up.’’
Alan Brennan, who runs the restaurant for the investors, said he had no idea Roach was planning to clown around.
“I drove by the corner one day and started laughing,’’ Brennan said, adding that business is up 45 per cent.
They paid $300 to have the first sandwich board sign custom made. When someone with the province came and removed it, they went out and paid for another one.
Brennan said they knew it was illegal but didn’t think anyone would care about one 18x30 sandwich board sign.
Brennan said the blue provincial road signs, designed to direct people to locations, don’t quite do the job.
“People don’t always look at them. We knew if we could just get a little bit of traffic, like an extra 15 to 20 cars a day off Route 6, it would make a difference.’’
He says they’re going to stay open into October, as opposed to late August last year in order to give extra staff they’ve hired, 18 of which are university students, more work.
“There’s a lot of talk about rural development but there’s not a lot of effort put into it,’’ Brennan said.
One tourist, who didn’t want to be quoted, said they were about to make a u-turn and head back into Cavendish to eat when his kids spotted the clown.
“My kids figured it must be a good place to eat,’’ the Nova Scotia man laughed.
Don Cudmore, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. (TIAPEI), said the signage laws were created with overwhelming support from tourism operators at the time. Cudmore said the province doesn’t want to see big billboards going up, which would be allowed without the regulations, and if they make an exception for one business it becomes a slippery slope.
As for the clown and his mobile sandwich board sign, there’s no law against that.
“I think it’s a great idea,’’ Cudmore said. “The operator took a wonderful approach to the situation and he’s done well with it.’’
Alan Brennan, who manages the Sou’West Bar and Grill in New London, said business is up 45 per cent since one of his investors started dressing up as a clown to direct traffic off Route 6 on to Route 20 where the restaurant is located. The investor is rebelling against provincial laws that don’t allow offsite sandwich board signage.
Charlie Roach, one of two investors in a New London family restaurant, doesn’t think much of the fact the province has removed their off-site sandwich board signs repeatedly this summer, due to laws that ban such a thing. So, he decided to dress up as a clown, stand at the corner of Route 6 and 20 in New London, wear the sandwich board and direct the traffic down himself. He’s there for an hour every Thursday and Friday.