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West Seattle small business owner fined for 27-year-old sign

The owner of Luna Park Café in West Seattle is frustrated with the city fining him $500 for this sandwich board sign that had been in place for 27 years. (Luna Park Cafe Facebook page)

Long-time small-business owner John Bennett woke up the other day angry at the city. Again. And he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that it forced him to take a broader look at what it means to be a Seattle entrepreneur.

“I was thinking, why do I feel like the City of Seattle is my enemy?” he said. “That’s not right. I feel like the city should encourage me and help me, not be my adversary.”

The adversarial relationship stems from the City of Seattle issuing a $500 fine to Bennett, who owns Luna Park Café in West Seattle, for a sandwich board sign on public property. The thing is, Bennett says that sign has been in the same location for the last 27 years.

“It’s in the same block of my business, just down the street and it directs people to get off the West Seattle freeway to over to the restaurant,” he said. “I put it over there in 1989 and it’s been there ever since. It was by one of the bridge pilings, so it’s out of the way. It’s not blocking anybody.”

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Bennett, who has appealed the fine, said the city issued a notification ahead of time but that previous warnings have been bluffs. He believes the city is cracking down due to an influx of signs for new apartment buildings that are crowding the sidewalks.

“They usually send out some letters and then it just goes away,” he said. “So I didn’t take it down because it wasn’t in the way and it’s been there forever. And I’m advertising a business in the same block. It’s not like I’m putting a sandwich board in Ballard or downtown.

“I just don’t think the city should be treating small businesses this way,” he added. “I think the city should be doing whatever it can to encourage small business.”

Dori, who is a former small business owner in the area, said that he too struggled with finding ways for his business to succeed despite the multitude of government regulations and taxes.

“Sometimes you feel that government is an adversary instead of an ally,” Dori said.

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