The Village’s BID (Business Improvement District) committee is considering imposing stricter regulations regarding temporary signs on the windows of Forest Park businesses, particularly liquor stores.
Members of the committee, which is made up of both village officials and Madison Street business owners, feel that when the majority of a store’s window is covered, it creates both an eyesore and a potentially dangerous situation due to the reduced visibility.
“A guy is much less likely to pull out a handgun if he’s in full view at Harlem and Madison,” said Village Administrator Michael Sturino, referring to an armed robbery at Arrow Liquors, 35 Harlem Ave., on Jan. 19.
Under the current village code, signs are not permitted to take up any more than 50 percent of a business’ windows. Though bars are explicitly required to ensure visibility from outside, liquor stores are not.
Liquor stores in town, according to committee members, often cover up much of their window space with temporary paper signs or unsightly displays, including stacked boxes of liquor. Some have repeatedly violated the current 50 percent requirement, officials say.
Sturino said while this might create aesthetic issues for other businesses, for liquor stores the consequences can be much more serious.
“I don’t remember the last time they had an armed robbery at Circle Theatre,” he said.
Michael Block, owner of Forest Park Liquors, 7429 Madison St., agreed during a telephone interview after the meeting.
“If they think that’s gonna be more safety for me and my store and my patrons, that’s great. Would I have less advertising space? Yeah, but that’s something I can deal with.”
Some suggested that the current 50 percent allowance might be too generous.
“If we talk about how we can manage paper signs, that might be a more fruitful conversation. Maybe 50 percent is just too much,” said Forest Park National Bank Director Art Jones.
Art Sundry, owner of caffe De Luca, noted that “if you go to an upscale area, you don’t see the back of a display case ” that’s not an upscale thing, and we should find a way to eliminate it.”
Still, officials pointed out that finding a way to eliminate such displays might be easier said than done. Though most might agree on which displays detract from the village’s appearance, it is difficult to regulate without legislating officials’ personal tastes.
“I’ve been thinking that all day”you just know it when you see it,” said Commissioner Tim Gillian.
“That’s the problem with being the aesthetics police,” agreed Commissioner Mark Hosty.
Gillian suggested allowing the police department to handle the situation on a case-by-case basis, notifying business owners when low visibility creates a safety risk.
“If they refuse, we’d make a law that covers it, but we can try to get a voluntary program going,” he said.
Unsightly signs outside other businesses, Sturino suggested, may take care of themselves over time.
“As we attract more upscale or desirable businesses, they’re less likely to [post the signs], and there’s less need to come in and impose restrictions,” he said.