A dozen or so business owners sat down with the mayor Thursday to talk over downtown sign restrictions in light of complaints about enforcement of the ordinance regulating them.
Meanwhile, at Monday’s city council meeting, officials discussed how the sign ordinance is unofficially suspended until council members can gather in early October to officially consider how to proceed. The Hollister Downtown Association also plans to hold a meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday to get feedback from business owners about the downtown sign ordinance.
Downtown business owners gathered at The Vault building owned by Mayor Ignacio Velazquez. It came weeks after Ohana Shave Ice owners Karina and Peter Hernandez went public on social media with complaints about enforcement of their neon sign on their San Benito Street storefront.
The city’s long-standing sign ordinance restricts an array of sign types and bars such signs as neon signs, animated signs, A-frame signs, billboards, signs affixed to trees and more.
Peter Hernandez spoke at the mayor’s meeting and noted how the city code enforcement official came to the business, talked to an unknowing employee and warned the neon sign would have to come down within 72 hours to prevent a fine.
“We got upset,” Hernandez said. “My wife put up a (social media) post. To us, it’s just a big disconnect. Government has its own perspective of how business should work. We have a different perspective.”
His wife Karina Hernandez said it’s not just about a sign, but about “everything that’s behind it.”
Velazquez agreed with the attendees, while he also recently expressed ire over questions regarding his own sign — or mural — that says “HOLLISTER” on the side of The Vault building. He said signs are important because consumers can drive by and not realize a business is open.
“Let’s just focus on trying to bring foot traffic,” he said. “Why are we still talking about things we’ve been fighting over for 10, 15 years?”
Kathina Szeto, owner of the Bene store on San Benito Street, recalled how she has dealt with enforcement of her A-frame signs outside of the shop. She said the on-again, off-again enforcement that happened before Christmas in 2013 hurt her business.
“It does matter when we do not have a thriving downtown and it also encourages folks to not just stop in one place, like their destination, but truly walk around and enjoy our town,” she said.
Mike Fisher from Fisher’s Restaurant was among the attendees and said he would like to see more encouragement of tourism-related businesses as a focus from city leaders. He also balked at such rules as city restrictions on food trucks and said he doesn’t understand that type of thinking. He’d prefer to see more competition in order to stimulate additional foot traffic as a whole to the downtown district.
“I want another restaurant right next door to me,” Fisher said, “right across the street from me.”
He said he often hears questions why businesses aren’t open past 8 p.m. and said it’s because there’s no activity downtown after that point at night.