A warning to a Huntington Beach bar that it would have to remove a longstanding pro-veteran rooftop sign has stirred an angry response in the Orange County city.
The billboard, posted atop Johnny’s Saloon in a strip mall on busy Beach Boulevard, is a regular sight for drivers in the area.
It reads: “Thank a veteran for your freedom,” alongside the logo for Johnny’s and the familiar POW-MIA symbol.
On Monday, the bar was notified that it would have two days to remove the sign because of a code violation, bartender Vicki Reimer said.
That generated a backlash against the city, an angry response on social media, and an online petition in favor of the sign.
In it defense, the city’s response has nothing to do with the content of the sign, Mayor Connie Boardman emphasized. The construction of the sign — its metal frame and placement atop a building — are of concern, she said.
“Our code enforcement department is complaint driven. We are reactive, not proactive. So when we get a complaint, we follow up,” Boardman said.
On Wednesday, the city posted an update on its website emphasizing its “proud tradition of supporting our active military members and the veterans who have bravely served our country.”
Despite the explanation — and a 90-day extension for the bar — many remained upset.
“This is not right that people say, ‘That bothers me, tear it down,’” said Darrel Pague of Oath Keepers. ”That is wrong. That’s like saying, ‘Take down the American flag.’”
The bar is popular with veterans.
“When I got back from begin deployed, I first came to Johnny’s. The sign drew me in,” customer Kyle Hartman said. “It’s very welcoming to veterans.”
Customer Matt Wuhrman, who identified himself as a veteran, said the sign and the bar’s welcoming attitude toward those who have served in the U.S. armed forces is a theme for Johnny’s Saloon.
On Wednesday evening, the bar posted a photo of the sign, shining in the dark, on its Facebook page.
“She is still up and shinning bright and beautiful!!!” the post stated.
The city’s statement Wednesday promised that officials and the bar will “work together to ensure that the intent of providing signage to thank our veterans remains.”
KTLA’s Chip Yost contributed to this report.