Ann Arbor
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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

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 September 7, 2011

Read Comments

  1. Posted by Ben Connor Barrie on 09.07.11 6:32 pm

    I hope you get that sign back up and that it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. If you get enough people behind you, perhaps this will become an issue during this November’s City Council Election.

  2. Posted by just a voice on 09.07.11 7:25 pm

    get that sign up, I would like to imagine that there has to be a lawyer and architect in this town that will donate the work to get that sign back up.

  3. Posted by Joe Dohm on 09.07.11 7:59 pm

    ht to for pointing me here. You should start a kickstarter to raise funds. I would be interested in what criteria the appeal would be decided on. If it looks like you have a decent chance of winning, I would be happy to throw in $20 to see the sign back up.

  4. Posted by Marc McFinn on 09.07.11 11:20 pm

    The Beer Depot sign is an important part of the down town A2 landscape. Like the deco Greyhound Station it harkens back to an age of style, and craftsmanship. It’s one of the few cool, well designed, things left to look at downtown. Nearly every aesthetically pleasing thing in the area seems in danger of being knocked down, replaced by a bland chain store. Isn’t it bad enough we can no longer drive through the Beer Depot? Now we have to fight to save that awesome sign.

  5. Posted by S.O. on 09.07.11 11:21 pm

    I agree with everyone above.

  6. Posted by Admin on 09.07.11 11:59 pm

    Wow. Thank you all so far for your supportive words! This blog only went live this morning, and we’ve already received a dozen or so e-mails as well as a number of comments here. Clearly there’s a lot of support for restoring the sign, which we suspected after doing a small survey at the store a couple of months ago. We received almost 500 signatures in 3 days. We have been forced to explore other options while accepting the possibility that this could drag out if we pursue the appeal. In the end we want to find a balance between community sentiment and business needs, and as anyone would understand, the cost of the appeal ON TOP of the restoration costs is rather daunting for a small business in tough economic times. We’ll keep taking input before making a final commitment.

  7. Posted by David Landrum on 09.08.11 2:35 am

    Typical A2 Historical Society BS! Let me know how I can support!

  8. Posted by Admin on 09.08.11 9:18 am

    Thanks for your support David. And we don’t want to censor anyone’s commentary, but DO want to stress that the various city staff we’ve interacted with have all been great, and that this is simply an unfortunate collision of events and ordinances. A rather unique situation.

  9. Posted by Zach Rathore on 09.09.11 2:02 pm

    I am saddened to hear this.

    I visited Ann Arbor nearly ten years ago as part of my first vacation to the US. I thought AA was a beautiful city and had a good mix of modern city architecture and historical buildings.

    Coming from the UK, I really did marvel at buildings and streets that really emphasised what I thought was truly ‘American’.

    When I saw the Beer Depot sign, I fell in love immediately – this was pure Americana for me and authentic too. I am happy that I documented it with my camera at the time. Luckily, being so long ago, it was shot on film, so it has aged nicely.

    My city, Manchester, like most cities in the UK are slowly homogenising and are all identikits of each other. We have lost many of our street furniture and unique buildings.

    Whereas the Beer Depot sign might be viewed as something ephemeral – it isn’t. It’s a root to your past, and without making it sound too dramatic, it’s important to everyone, in AA and globally. AA has many visitors from all over the world because of the Uni. I am sure that many other visitors marvelled at the beautiful vulgarity of the sign, imagined the time of when it was first erected, had silly thoughts about ‘Back to the Future’ and Hollywood/TV programmes that we outside of the US imagine what the US 50s looked like.

    Our pasts, whether rose tinted or not, need to be preserved.

  10. Posted by Jerry Meredith on 09.09.11 4:30 pm

    I had no idea that you lost the sign in April. I completely support your effort to restore it. With a new 7-11 on South Main Street, a cell phone store (!)…next to Peaceable Kingdom downtown on Main, and the continuing gentrification of the city in general…losing forever, a bit of real Ann Arbor ‘Americana’——like the Beer Depot sign——would be a tragedy. The unique is what makes a place like Ann Arbor special, not the generic.

  11. Posted by Rob on 09.12.11 1:26 am

    I wondered where the sign went but didn’t fully understand until now.

    It’s a bit ridiculous all of the hoops they are making you jump through. I hope you’re able to resolve this and get the sign back up.

  12. Posted by Matt on 09.15.11 1:37 am

    I lived at William and Hamilton for three years, and was so sad this spring when the sign was suddenly gone! It is a beacon of downtown Ann Arbor, a landmark. I agree with the commenter above that there must be a lawyer and architect who would donate some time to certify everything so that you can move forward with the appeal. I hope it works out!

  13. Posted by Jonathan Wright on 10.03.11 11:15 am

    ! That sign is Great! It IS part of Ann Arbor’s history. I hate beer, but I love the Beer Depot.
    I have live in Ann Arbor all my life, pretty much the same amount of time as that sign.

    I would rather see the city (me as taxpayer) pay for it a spart of the art in public places. Frankly, I like that sign better than the tree sculpture in West Park, and WAY more than “ART” bicycle racks.

  14. Posted by Gina Ashford on 10.03.11 11:57 am

    That sign is historic. Ann Arbor has many great memories this sign is one hopefully they will allow the sign to be put back in its rightful place. Lets save some history that’s what makes Ann Arbor so special.

  15. Posted by Eric on 10.03.11 12:11 pm

    They should not only let you fix your sign, but the state should let you resume selling beer via the drive thru.

  16. Posted by Becky on 10.03.11 12:56 pm

    YES YES YES save the sign!!!!! Much like the rock, the Arborland huge A sign, and the giant M on the football stadium, the Beer Depot sign is a part of Ann Arbor history. It absolutely should be saved. Even while away at college in another state I would tell people about the Beer Depot sign. Please please save this sign!

  17. Posted by liz brauer on 10.03.11 1:20 pm

    I hope to see the sign re-erected. Good luck.

  18. Posted by Rocky on 10.03.11 1:00 pm

    Save the sign!

  19. Posted by Jordan on 10.03.11 5:25 pm

    Bring back the sign, and consider dropping spirits in favor of drive-through beer/wine and whatever else you can sell that way. That would be an instant re-classic!

  20. Posted by Hal Waterman on 10.05.11 3:31 pm

    I’m in Boston and visit friends in A2 annualy, and I look more forward to seeing the BD sign than I do seeing them! I’m wearing my BD t-shirt tomorrow to represent!

  21. Posted by Dan Martin on 10.05.11 5:14 pm

    It’s bad enough we can’t enjoy the Ypsi-Arbor bowling sign anymore. (It’s in a museum far away.) Don’t force The Beer Depot to be without its iconic sign. I don’t even like beer and I love the sign.

  22. Posted by Mary on 12.23.11 8:42 am

    I agree that you should use kickstarter if you want to raise funds! Please!

  23. Posted by David Paris on 12.26.11 9:26 pm

    So, the city sees a revenue opportunity in your loss… that’s nice. How much is the fine if you just put the sign up without the permits and “proper” approvals? Probably less than $6000. Best of Luck to you, may “the BEER Depot” sign Rise Again!

  24. Posted by Dana (from El Paso, TX) on 02.27.12 12:38 pm

    I was up there a few years ago and took a few pictures of your fabulous sign, which I absolutely loved! ( I had seen pictures on FLICKR and made it a point to find it) I was back there in late November 2011 and was very disappointed that it was gone. I sure hope you are able to get it back up because it was an awesome reminder of days gone by. It is amazing how Red Tape can mess things up!

  25. Posted by Matt G. on 04.24.12 11:09 am

    I had remarked a while back about what happened to the sign and finally stumbled upon this blog. Thank you for bringing this to the people’s attention. There are enough folk in A2 and beyond who would be willing to help out such an iconic business.

    I also agree with the above posters that a Kickstarter campaign, even just to raise the appeal fees, would be successful. You may also want to consider contacting some of your distributors, producers, the Michigan Brewer’s Guild, etc. Many of the Michigan Brewing companies are philanthropic and could be sympathetic to helping you out. I know I’d be encouraged to buy a sixer from a company who cares as much as I do about one of their iconic retailers!

  26. Posted by Admin on 04.25.12 8:22 am

    Thanks again everyone for all the support and ideas! We went for the appeal yesterday, and may have some good news soon. Fingers crossed!

  27. Posted by Kevin Mantay on 06.10.12 8:35 pm

    Have you ever considered using student aid? As a student, I’m not about to graduate as an architect or lawyer, but with U of M, I’m sure some of your other customers are, and would be happy to help. Offer them a discount and mirrored sign for their favorite beer, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

  28. Posted by Jethro on 07.31.12 4:52 pm

    The imbeciles need to get their heads our of their asses and think like people in the real world. A similar situation occurred with the Great Lakes Coffee place over on Jackson at the I-94 entrance way. They had a sign issue due to the old gas station sign infrastructure and there were grandfathering issues and similar reasoning as to why it couldn’t just be reused. Anyway, in the end common sense ruled – get in touch with them to learn the nitty gritty of their story.

  29. Posted by Jim K on 08.14.12 1:26 pm

    I think you should also spread the word when any public meetings are held, and get citizens to write in. Citizens expressing their support for such a landmark (which doesn’t seem to create ANY public nuisance or health or safety concerns) may get the board to “see the light”. Local ordinances are typically written to keep a leash on the egregious offenders that don’t care about the community. You obviously do care and are not planning on making the situation any WORSE, just replacing what was taken down by nature. I would vote for an exception to the ordinance!

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