Ann Arbor
Craft Beer, Homebrew Supplies, and more, Right in downtown Ann Arbor
Save The Beer Depot Sign!

Help us restore this:

Sign Damage

To its original glory:

Beer Depot Sign - Photo By Spencer Thomas
Photo By Spencer Thomas

Photo Gallery

For some background on why we’re sharing these photos of the Beer Depot sign, you might want to start here. But if there’s any question in one’s mind about whether or not the legendary Beer Depot sign is a landmark of historic interest, one only has to do a quick Google Image Search for “Ann Arbor Beer Depot”. You’ll not only find dozens of photos taken by people from all over the world (we’ve received feedback from Oregon, Texas, the UK, and Russia, for example), but you’ll also find a number of unauthorized uses of the sign for products ranging from iPad skins to drink coasters. We haven’t contacted those novelty product creators yet, but we did contact a number of individuals around the web to seek permission to share their photos. We’re still waiting to hear from a few people; if you have a photo to share, feel free to contact us and we’ll add it. The latest roundup of images is below. (more…)

Posted By:Admin September 27, 2011

Show Your Support

Before you do anything else, you might want to read the story of what happened to the Beer Depot sign, and why the city won’t let us restore it. If you’d like to show your support of our intention to restore the vintage Beer Depot sign, there are several things you can do. One is to simply leave a comment here sharing your thoughts. If you have a photo or other artwork featuring the sign, contact us, and we’ll tell you how to get a copy to us. We’ll be adding an image gallery soon. And we’ll also probably create a Facebook page, so stay tuned. We’re mostly trying to gauge public interest first. The appeal process with the city is a rather pricey pursuit, so we’re taking our time, and will base a final decision on public input.

Posted By:Admin September 7, 2011

What Happened?

In April of 2011, on a windy spring day, we heard a metallic thud outside the store. Thinking it may have been one of the many fender-benders that occur near our busy downtown location, we poked our heads outside to see if it was anything serious. Well, it was serious. Fortunately, no PEOPLE were hurt; the only injuries were to our baby, the landmark 1950′s vintage sign in front of the store. Unfortunately, the injuries were critical though. There was no way the sign was going back up without some serious restoration work. Fortunately, we have a great sign guy – Jim of JanSigns in Wayne, MI. He was confident he could repair enough of the sign that it would still legitimately be the vintage sign that it was. We gave the go ahead, and contacted the city to pull permits for the work. And that’s when the problems began. Although the sign is universally recognized as a vintage or historic landmark, in the eyes of the city and the local historic district, the sign falls into a conceptual no-man’s land. If we had wanted to tear it down earlier (which we never would have) you can be sure we would have been told we can’t, for historic reasons. But now that nature had done its work, since the sign was “out of code”, we couldn’t replace it. Learn what we’re doing to try to get the sign back up here. In the meantime, the damaged sign is safe in the able hands of the sign company.

Posted By:Admin

The Red Tape

If you’re not familiar with what happened to the landmark Beer Depot sign, find out here. So why isn’t the sign back up? Well, when the sign was blown down, our first plan was to create an authentic replica using as many of the original parts as possible. This simply would not fly with the city; it would be considered a “new” sign, even if it were exactly the same shape, dimensions, and colors, and used some of the original parts. When we told the sign company, they said “well, we can do a restoration, but it will be pretty expensive”. We ran this by the city, but the basic answer was still no, with one caveat: Planning Manager Wendy Rampson was kind enough to point out a possible angle. Although the reason the sign couldn’t go back up was that the sign didn’t meet the “height, size and setback requirements of Chapter 61, the City’s sign ordinance“, the ordinance also specifies that “no nonconforming sign shall be repaired or erected after being damaged if the repair or erection of the sign would cost more than 50 percent of the cost of an identical new sign.” This meant that if the cost of restoring the sign were less than half the cost of an all-new replacement, we could probably get approval. The problem? We probably could have fudged numbers, but lying is wrong, and any honest sign company will tell you that there was no way those numbers would work in our favor. So we got a “nay” from the city. On their behalf, they did this without making us jump through all the clerical hoops involved. The next step? The Sign Board of Appeals. More on that here if you’re interested.

Posted By:Admin

Should We Appeal?

So we want your opinion. The next step on our quest to get the historic neon Beer Depot sign back up was to go to the Sign Board of Appeals. We were informed by the city that there was a $500.00 filing fee, and that there were monthly board meetings at which the appeal could be filed. We planned to go ahead with this, until we discovered some of the fine print. You also need complete “signed & sealed” site and design plans, which means an architect and/or engineer needs to put their official stamp on the plans required. This meant that simply to file the appeal with no legal assistance would be over $2,000.00, and WITH legal counsel, easily $4,000.00 – $6,000.00. That’s a lot of money to lay out with the possibility of still being rejected. So we’re asking you, the people of Ann Arbor and beyond – what do you think? Is this sign a vital part of historic downtown Ann Arbor? Or should we say goodbye forever to this classic 50′s neon sign, and look to the future?

Posted By:Admin

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