Julie Tam, NBCDFW.com
Several Dallas businesses that are part of a lawsuit against the city are now complying with the ordinance to avoid costly fines.
Several Dallas businesses that are part of a lawsuit against the city are now complying with a sign ordinance to avoid costly fines.
A judge decided store owners have to cover up certain signs on their windows and doors, which they say is hurting their business.
The city of Dallas said too many signs in the wrong places are unsightly and unsafe because they block the view of police trying to see into a store, to see if there's a crime in progress.
An ordinance, passed in 2008, puts tight restrictions on where commercial signs can be placed.
This week April Gilliland, owner of FastSigns on North Central Expressway, had to change her store windows in a hurry. She covered up signs bearing her company's name, after she said the city threatened her with a $1,000 fine.
"I was fearful. I can't afford $1,000 a day. I feel like the ordinance is too restrictive. It's not allowing my freedom of speech. It's unfair. I don't understand it," said Gilliland. "People actually stopped us and said, 'Are you going out of business?'"
The Dallas ordinance allows signs only in the bottom third of the glass. Gilliland's signs were up too high.
She and other business owners have put up political posters, which are allowed, saying "Free Speech for Small Business: End the Dallas Sign Ban."
Travel agency owner Dena McDonald said the simple lettering on her glass door with her company name "Tiki Trips" still allowed police to see into her business. Now a large piece of white paper blocks their view and looks strange, she said.
"City of Dallas is doing this as a bully tactic to try to get businesses like mine to comply with a ridiculous ordinance," said McDonald. "It's ridiculous and it's an embarrassment, and especially in this economy, it is hindering the businesses, and that's the last thing that we should be doing."
The Dallas businesses are suing for only $1. They just want the city to limit the sign ordinance to convenience stores, not all businesses. Council members say they were planning to revise the ordinance but have halted those plans until the lawsuit is resolved.
Business owners who are part of the lawsuit say they feel singled out by the city. The City Attorney's office responded: "The City enforces this law city-wide when it discovers violations."