Barbecue restaurant faces code case over mural

Recently opened, Billly-Bobz Bar-B-Q at 1228 West University Avenue has run afoul of city code enforcement because a mural with the business' name on is considered a sign that needs a permit.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 4:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 4:59 p.m.

After working in construction for 30 years, twin brothers Billy and Bob Pulley opened a barbecue joint on West University Avenue a few months back.

On the west wall of the restaurant, a bright mural shows a smiling pig in an orange shirt, blue overalls and 10-gallon cowboy hat and announces "BILLY-BOBZ- BAR-B-Q."

Now, the Pulley brothers face a code enforcement violation.

City officials say putting the name of the business on the mural at 1228 W. University Ave. made it an unpermitted sign advertising a business.

If "BILLY-BOBZ- BAR-B-Q" is still visible on the mural after Sept. 30, the business faces a hearing before the code Enforcement Board and, after that, the possibility of a $1,000-a-day fine.

Bob Pulley said the situation has left him feeling that the city sign ordinance is overly restrictive and, in this case, an obstacle to a new small business trying to make it.

At the tail end of last Thursday night's City Commission meeting, Mayor Ed Braddy, who had met previously with the Pulleys, raised the issue and said he felt the city was being heavy-handed in dealing with the restaurant owners.

"We have the code and it appears the code is overly stringent," Braddy said in a Wednesday interview. "The bottom line is I don't think that sign is hurting anybody. I don't think it is an eyesore. I don't think it is diminishing the quality of life."

Code Enforcement Division Manager Chris Cooper said the situation could be resolved if the Pulley brothers acquire a city permit for the sign.

"We do allow signs and artwork," Cooper said. "It's only when you add the commercial message that it becomes an issue. They need a permit."

The code case over the sign on the side of BILLY-BOBZ- BAR-B-Q has also brought city scrutiny of the mural one block to the east on the side of Modern Age Tobacco & Gift Shop.

That painting features purple mushrooms, multiple images tied to jam rock legends the Grateful Dead, including dancing bears and skeletons and a "Steal Your Face" skull, and a reclining alligator tearing a University of Georgia jersey off an alarmed bulldog.

It also includes the wording Modern Age Tobacco.

Cooper said that sign may lack a permit as well, and code enforcement plans to address the issue.

A man who answered the phone at Modern Age on Wednesday declined to comment in much detail except to say the store's point of view is that the mural is allowed and permitted.

For BILLY-BOBZ, city officials say applying for a permit is a potential solution.

Bob Pulley said that route raises concerns over the roadblocks and obstacles the brothers feel they faced last year when renovating the building that now houses their restaurant.

Last September, they sent a letter of complaint to City Manager Russ Blackburn over issues with some inspectors and other employees in the Building Department.

In the letter, they spoke of inspectors requiring additional work or plans without providing a basis in the city code and, eventually, issuing a stop work order that delayed the project by months.

Braddy said the Pulleys told him about that experience then and that is why he decided to bring attention to the current issue with the mural.

"They just got hammered every step of the way," Braddy said. "It's not that they don't know how to comply. They were just not given any help."

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