Dobber Stephenson is a restaurateur who knows how to create buzz. So when he and his partner, Paul Longinotti, put up their Hollywood sign at the corner of Vine and Elm streets on Memorial Day weekend, the buzzing began.
When the partners opened the popular Hollywood & Vine restaurant last year, they planned to erect the Hollywood sign up on the hill behind the eatery. The sign appears very similar to the iconic Hollywood, Calif., sign, only a lot smaller, of course.
Instead, the partners decided to install the sign so that visitors to the downtown Glen Rose square could see it and find the restaurant.
And therein lies the controversy. The sign, with its 4-foot-tall block letters and palm trees painted a bright green and fabricated from steel, stands out. Bulbs light it up at night.
Some folks like it. Others hate that it's so visible from the square and said it clashes with the historic atmosphere.
An informal poll of residents and tourists about the sign drew about an equal number of positive and negative reactions, ranging from “cool” to “tacky.”
"The tourists love it," Stephenson said. "They come up and pose for pictures underneath it."
Some members of the city's Preservation Board, however, don't care for the sign.
"I think it's an affront to the Preservation District," board chair Karen Richardson said. "
“I think it's overdone,” agreed architect and Preservation Board member Gene Brode. “It's a little bit over the line.”
One downtown merchant who did not want to be identified said visitors to the shop asked, “What happened to your quaint town?” referring to the sign.
The sign is not on property in the city's historic district and thus isn't required to comply with those rules. But it does span a city easement. Even if the easement ever were to become a paved street, the sign is 14 feet high to allow for truck clearance.
Mayor Jean King asked city staff to look into the sign after she got some phone calls from concerned citizens. The city's code enforcement officer, Darrell Webb, is looking into whether the sign complies with the city's sign ordinance. Stephenson said the city was aware of his plans to erect a Hollywood Hills-style sign when he told the City Council about it last year.
However, Richardson said that she did not believe the sign complies with the city sign ordinance.
"It's on city property and it's too big," she added.
The city's Board of Adjustments could grant a variance, City Superintendent Ronald Bruce said.
Stephenson said it's his right to advertise his business just as other businesses on the square do.
"We are a tropical-themed restaurant," Stephenson said. "Palm trees set a tropical theme. If it were a Western restaurant, we'd have saddles up there. If we were an ice cream shop, we'd have ice cream cones up there.
"We cater to the locals and attract tourists," he added. "We had no visible advertising from the square."
Diners often couldn't find the restaurant on the dark street, he added.
"We should have the right to advertise our business," Stephenson said. "We're advertising on our property and, I think, tastefully. We're trying to create excitement on the square."
Darrell Best of the Glen Rose/Somervell County Chamber of Commerce agreed.
"I think the sign is tremendous," he said. "It's a great way to draw people to Hollywood & Vine and is just another great promotion for the city of Glen Rose. As people come up Highway 144, it gives them another reason to stop downtown.
"It just adds to the character and culture of Glen Rose," Best added.