Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Restaurants Oppose Proposed OKC Sign Ordinance

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Restaurants Oppose Proposed OKC Sign Ordinance

Article excerpt

Fast-food chain restaurants and the Oklahoma Restaurant Association spoke against new menu board signage definitions submitted for the Oklahoma City Council's consideration Tuesday.

City Hall staff suggested limiting the square footage of drive- thru menu signs, total electronic message display space, and the readability of the signs from the street to help limit visual clutter. Representatives for Braum's, Sonic and McDonald's told council members that the regulations were too restrictive and may ultimately conflict with new federal rules for food nutrition descriptions.

"While I respect staff's efforts, I respectfully disagree with their conclusions," said David Cheek, an attorney representing the locally based Braum's restaurant and grocery chain. "Drive-in boards have been in existence in this town for a long time. They've never been regulated. I'm not sure why it's necessary to regulate them. I understand the need to control traffic ... but drive-in boards don't do that."

For example, Cheek said, the company's 23 restaurants in Oklahoma City already have menu boards as large as 50 square feet, so a proposal of 36 square feet is immediately problematic.

And the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will soon require chain restaurants to post calorie counts for standard menu items. Some restaurants already do so, but for most it will mean more sign surface space, Cheek said.

Bob Tener, head of the city's Development Services division, said the issue came up when a local sign manufacturer approached City Hall to confirm that a new product would be acceptable for restaurant use under city ordinances. Tener said the question hadn't really been addressed before, so his staff set out to put a definite answer on the books.

"The concern that we had is that some menu boards are being used as advertising and most properties are already regulated in the sign ordinance for the amount of advertising," Tener said.

"We didn't do enough work," he said. "We should have reached out to some of the restaurants around here that we deal with on other matters to get their input, and we didn't do that. …

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