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Save The Beer Depot Sign!
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Help us restore this:

Sign Damage

To its original glory:

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

Nice Pole. So Where’s The Sign?

The latest snag? The insurance company tries to not pay on our policy!

Although the big black pole recently erected in front of the Beer Depot is a vast improvement over a nine-foot hole surrounded by caution tape, it’s not exactly the look we’re going for! So what’s the hitch on getting the sign up? Well, the short version is that as we headed into the homestretch – after the lengthy and costly process of filing the appeals needed to get the sign up in the first place – we hit another snag: the insurance company refused to pay anything on the policy! They tried to claim the sign just “fell over”, which – given the fact that the day the sign went down was one of the windiest on record – seemed to us a ludicrous claim. So we went to court. And “won”. If you call getting a third of your expected policy benefits (after legal and admin fees) a “victory”.

In spite of the fact that we could have avoided a lot of misery and expense by simply replacing the classic sign with a modern one that conforms to current code, we still have no regrets about the decision to preserve this iconic piece of Americana!

But after this latest “Ten Thousand Dollar Surprise”, we’re finally acting on a suggestion made by a number of customers and supporters, and launching a “crowdfunding” campaign. We’ve invested a lot of time and additional expense to do what we think is right for our community and its historic locations, now is YOUR chance to show some support if you like.

We’ll announce the fundraising campaign as soon as it’s live!

Posted By:Admin January 2, 2013

Yellow Tape, Red Tape, and…Kickstarter?


No, we didn’t change the store name to “Caution”, and that’s not the new sign!

If you live in Ann Arbor, you may have seen the recent piece on AnnArbor.com about the sign. We were glad to see there were only a few snarks and trolls; in general, the amount of local support for restoring the sign has been heartwarming. So now we’re in the homestretch, with only a few hurdles ahead. If you’ve driven by the store lately, we apologize for our appearances! No, we haven’t changed the store name to “CAUTION”, and that wire cage out front wrapped in warning tape is not the new sign. That was one of the first hurdles. You would think putting in a new sign foundation where one existed before would be a piece of cake, but the guys from JK Services of Dearborn Heights ran into some surprises as they jackhammered that 9 foot hole. No volcanic activity or oil, but even the city doesn’t have records on exactly what lies beneath a lot of downtown building sites, and apparently there were a lot more layers of different concrete and paving materials than you would imagine. They got the work done though, and that prepares us for the next hurdle – inspection. We don’t have a date as of this writing for when the site will be inspected and approved. Hopefully by then we’ll have word on whether or not insurance will cover the original damage, and if the stars align on all those issues, the restoration will be complete shortly thereafter.

And there’s the rub. The owners have faced considerable hardship by seeking to restore this classic sign. It would have been much cheaper, and much easier, to simply put up a new conforming sign. In spite of the naive observations of some AnnArbor.com commenters (more…)

Posted By:Admin October 5, 2012

The Sign Will Be Restored!

After a lengthy appeal process, we’re ecstatic to be able to tell you that the historic Beer Depot sign will be restored to its original Doo Wop Era glory! Many thanks to the folks at the Historic District Commission and in the City Planning Department for making what many would agree was the right decision. Restoration work has begun – thanks to JanSigns of Troy, Michigan – but will likely be a lengthy and expensive process. We’ll have more updates soon, including photos of the restoration work as it moves along. And we’ll probably be offering up some swag like T-Shirts to help raise some funds and raise awareness. Quite a few supporters of the sign have even suggested we do a Kickstarter campaign. What do YOU think?

Posted By:Admin August 20, 2012

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 September 7, 2011

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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