Clown­ing around

Res­tau­rant owner un­happy over pro­vin­cial law against sand­wich board signs dresses up as clown to drum up busi­ness

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE STEWART dstew­art@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/DveSte­wart

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.’’

DAVE STEWART/THE GUARDIAN

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.

DAVE STEWART/THE GUARDIAN

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.

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