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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

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

Read Comments

  1. Posted by Jeremy Wheeler on 09.07.11 7:37 pm

    I’d love to see that Beer Depot sign back up. It’s a part of the city, which unfortunately has some seriously stupid red tape that people have to deal with.

  2. Posted by Rebecca on 09.07.11 8:34 pm

    The beer depot Is awesome!! And they sell Lindeman’s Raspberry Framboise… Which makes my day!! Let em put their sign back up!!

  3. Posted by Peter Baker on 09.07.11 8:46 pm

    The Beer Depot sign IS a historic design and absolutely deserves to be rebuilt and protected. Portland, Oregon embraces it’s neon signs because they see them as important artifacts, and so should we.

    Who gets to decide which historical era we’re trying to preserve?

  4. Posted by Greta on 09.07.11 11:09 pm

    Hear hear! Bring back the iconic sign. Well said, Mr. Baker.

  5. Posted by S.O. on 09.07.11 11:19 pm

    It would be a shame if the sign wasn’t there. These city employees sound more loyal to red tape than actually preserving architecturally interesting elements of Ann Arbor.

  6. Posted by Admin on 09.08.11 12:05 am

    Thank you all so much for your input. One of the core questions in this issue was highlighted by Mr. Baker’s question above:

    “Who gets to decide which historical era we’re trying to preserve?”

    The building is part of the historic district, but the sign isn’t? Frustrating indeed.

    In any case, we’d like to remind everyone that while no one LIKES red tape or bureaucracy, the city staff we’ve interacted with so far have been very courteous, even going so far as to help point out a potential loophole which unfortunately didn’t work out in this case.

  7. Posted by Murph on 09.08.11 12:25 am

    The historic preservation ordinance has been brought up (e.g. “who gets to decide”) — can I ask if at any point the City told you it was because of the historic preservation ordinance that you could not put the sign back up?

    It sounds like you’ve simply run afoul of the sign ordinance’s “existing non-conforming” clause, which is zoning-related rather than preservation-related. I will tell you that this is something nearly every city has in their ordinance (not just Ann Arbor), and frequently comes into conflict with the preservation of historic signs. (Ypsilanti just passed sign ordinance revisions that specifically included a clause to allow for the restoration of historic but non-conforming signs, as it was also a concern in that city.)

    It also looks like A2′s sign board of appeals uses a fairly standard set of decision criteria; from the application:

    1. Are there hardships or practical difficulties to complying with the ordinance? Are these hardships or practical difficulties an exception or unique to the property compared to other properties in the City?
    2. Are the hardships or practical difficulties more than mere inconvenience, inability to obtain a higher financial return? (explain)
    3. What effect will granting the variance have on the neighboring properties?
    4. What physical characteristics of your property in terms of size, shape, location or topography prevent you from using it in a way that is consistent with the ordinance?
    5. Is the condition which prevents you from complying with the ordinance selfimposed? How did the condition come about?

    Make sure that you’re basing your hopes of an appeal on these criteria, and not on popular support — if you can’t get past this set of criteria, the ZBA cannot legally grant an appeal even if you get every single resident of Ann Arbor to voice their support. (The ZBA is legally as quasi-judicial body and pretty strictly regulated in state law and case law.)

    As somebody who’s been on the staff side of plenty of these, I’d recommend you draft up your answers to these questions and run them by the city staff for their feedback on your chances of passing muster with the ZBA.

  8. Posted by Admin on 09.08.11 12:47 am

    That’s some very insightful commentary there Murph, are you an attorney, or have you just been involved on the administrative side of this sort of issue before? In any case, the Historic District made it clear at the outset that if the sign were being restored or repaired, they had no concerns with the process. They would only be concerned with the creation of a NEW sign, so the issue remained with city planning people and the SBA. And no, we’re not basing hopes for a successful appeal on public sentiment. We are just faced with a rather significant expense to pursue the appeal in the first place. We didn’t want assume – based on biased anecdotal indications – that local residents would have strong sentiments on the issue, so thought we’d air things out in public a bit before committing to the rather significant expense.

  9. Posted by Fred F on 09.08.11 5:36 pm

    Not EVERYBODY loved that sign. I think you will have the more sentimental types who liked the sign commenting, and people like me (who don’t care about the sign that much) mostly not bothering to comment. I for one thought it was a bit of an eyesore and did nothing for the local landscape. And when there’s talk of restoring something “vintage” like that sign it makes me think of the cheesy job they did on the Mich theater marquee. I say scrap that thing for the money and spend it on something more appealing.

  10. Posted by Adam Swann on 09.09.11 3:55 pm

    I believe that the sign should definitely be put back up. After all, the wind was not an act of mankind, so if no-one agreed for it to fall, then this event should simply be reversed.

  11. Posted by Phil Dokas on 09.09.11 4:10 pm

    I have four photos of this great sign on Flickr with a license that just requires a link back to the original:

    Feel free to use them for your needs!

  12. Posted by Linda Conrad on 10.03.11 10:56 am

    I hope for the resurrection of the iconic Beer Depot sign.It’s part of Ann Arbor’s history and should be preserved. You have my support. Best of luck

  13. Posted by Bob Yopko on 10.03.11 12:21 pm

    It has to go back up. We cannot lose an iconic symbol such as this. I remember, as do most alumni, walking through the beer depot on the way to games.

    This is a piece of history. We cannot lose it!

  14. Posted by Eric Sproull on 10.03.11 12:52 pm

    Nice post, Murph.

    It sounds like Ann Arbor needs the same “existing non-conforming” clause as was recently added in Ypsi.

  15. Posted by JIm Manheim on 10.03.11 1:02 pm

    Fight on! The city’s conception of what’s historic is seriously flawed.

  16. Posted by S. Tarpley on 10.03.11 1:02 pm

    You have my full support. The sign should go back up – it’s part of perserving Ann Arbor’s history.

  17. Posted by Tex Treeder on 10.03.11 1:09 pm

    Signs like this give character to a city.

    Historic District Commission: Historic doesn’t just mean late 19th century. Historic also means what makes this city uniquely Ann Arbor.

  18. Posted by Blair Sanderson on 10.03.11 1:14 pm

    I used to live in that neighborhood, and the Beer Depot is a landmark that I’ll always remember. Let the sign go back up where it belongs!

  19. Posted by Brian Shensky on 10.03.11 1:45 pm

    Why does this town always act against its best self-interest when it comes to matters of progress vs. historical importance? First the Zingerman’s expansion (the town initially denied the expansion on account of “historical” issues tied to the property next door to be razed), and now this.

    Oh, I get it – it’s about MONEY. Civic extortion is more like it.

  20. Posted by Evan Boyd on 10.03.11 2:18 pm

    This is making Ann Arbor look RIDICULOUS!! Two 7-Elevens and a CVS downtown but THIS is what they are blocking???? The Beer Depot is certainly a part of Ann Arbor nostalgia for me, and the amazing retro sign is a major reason for that.

  21. Posted by Eric Boyd on 10.03.11 11:32 am

    I love this sign. Old signs should be permitted, even if they don’t meet modern codes.

  22. Posted by Christine Grant on 10.03.11 11:56 am

    By all means, save the sign!!! For many years, I lived in the house adjacent to the drive through – fantastic neighbors along with many interesting and fond memories!!!

  23. Posted by R. Scott on 10.03.11 12:13 pm

    You have my support. These types of things are what make Ann Arbor interesting. More power to the Beer Depot!

  24. Posted by Steven on 10.03.11 12:29 pm

    Save the sign! It is an icon of Ann Arbor. We just lost the Ypsi-Arbor bowl sign, we lost Shakey Jake – c’mon city government! Save the sign! Make shirts of your own, put the image on beer coozies. Let me know how I can help!


  25. Posted by Joshua Traylor on 10.03.11 1:04 pm

    Bring Back The Sign!!!

  26. Posted by Alison on 10.03.11 1:56 pm

    I agree with Evan Boyd.

  27. Posted by Jack McNally on 10.03.11 4:27 pm

    That sign is one of the best parts of Ann Arbor. Dont let it die!!!!

  28. Posted by Kevin on 10.03.11 6:58 pm

    That sign is a part of the cultural history of this city.

  29. Posted by Mark on 10.03.11 10:19 pm

    Agree with Evan above… I didn’t mind the city approving a CVS and 7-Eleven to provide some competition for near-campus pharmacies and convenience stores, but if they allow those they better make an exception for this sign!

  30. Posted by Lola on 10.04.11 11:37 am

    I drove by the other day and was wondering what happened to the sign. The street looks “wrong.” How tragic that the city won’t let you put it back up without jumping through hoops. I’d support it being restored and re-erected. Good luck, I’ll be following the story.

  31. Posted by Janet on 10.04.11 11:46 am

    I love the sign…please keep it!

  32. Posted by Betty on 10.10.11 1:09 pm

    That sign is an icon! I love the character and charm that vintage signs like this give our town. They are unique pieces of history that need to be maintained and treasured. I certainly do not want Ann Arbor to look like any generic suburb and I fear this is the road we are going down. I totally support the efforts to restore and reinstall the sign.

  33. Posted by Nick on 10.15.11 5:36 pm

    SAVE THE SIGN!!!!!!

  34. Posted by Dave on 10.31.11 11:13 am

    The City of Ann Arbor is well known for preventing people from modifying original architectural elements. Just Google “Ann Arbor Old West Side” to find many instances where property owners were NOT allowed to change original doors, windows, fences, etc. Now the want to insist that you DO change an original architectural element rather than restoring it. The liberal fascists in Ann Arbor will never rest until they control every little aspect of everyone’s life. I heard about this just today, so I’m going to make a point of purchasing beer at the Beer Depot, just to make sure that you guys have the resources to fight this tyranny.

  35. Posted by Hank Swager on 07.09.12 11:01 am

    Though I only lived in Ann Arbor for three short years I definitely remember the Beer Depot sign. It is just as much a landmark as the funky art in U of M. Please allow it to be rebuilt.

  36. Posted by John Seldin on 09.15.12 1:38 pm

    My brother worked there in the early ’80s. I’d gladly contribute to the fundraising, and I love the idea of a T-shirt if that’s still under consideration. Let me know how I can help!

  37. Posted by Kate on 12.14.12 12:14 am

    Love the idea of t-shirts! I lived in that house for three years in the 80′s and received my alcohol education at the Beer Depot! Never needed a night light, the light from that sign cast a warm glow throughout the apartment, and kept me awake if I didn’t close the curtains all the way. Lots of fond memories of that place — sitting on the front porch with the guys from the funeral home, watching cars coming out of the drive-through, drivers rolling down their paper bags and cracking open their beers before they even got to the street…ah, those were the days!

    Very glad to hear the sign will survive. The place looked naked without it.

  38. Posted by Austin Stanton on 12.18.12 4:55 pm

    This sign is pure Americana. It’s an iconic piece from it’s time period. It should be put back up? Boooo city officials!

  39. Posted by Admin on 12.19.12 7:01 pm

    Thanks Austin, but in the end the people at the city were great. It’s usually the regulations that we need to get cranky about. And we think the folks at the city did the right thing by making an exception here.

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