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Flagler Beach Will Loosen Its Mural Rules, Allowing Businesses to Advertise Products Through Art

| March 29, 2019

The mural outside of Swillerbees in Flagler Beach is the work of Allie Wisniewski and Bailey Pemberton. (© FlaglerLive)

The mural outside of Swillerbees in Flagler Beach is the work of Allie Wisniewski and Bailey Pemberton. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach is moving toward loosening its mural rules to allow for greater expression and even a little bit of extra advertising, all thanks to raining donuts on the wall outside Swillerbees, the craft donut and coffee shop on North Central Avenue.

The more liberal rules are the result of a few complaints about murals around town–by the city’s code enforcement division, which cites murals that are out of compliance with municipal rules, and by businesses, which have complained that the rules are too strict, and the regulation of murals that add character to the city is too counter-productive.

City code forbids any mural that carries advertising, or symbolism that could be interpreted as advertising. Bayne’s, the barbecue restaurant in the heart of the city, once featured a mural with a pig on it. Code enforcement interpreted the pig as advertising Bayne’s products. It had to be removed. A bar nearby featured a leprechaun with a beer. The beer was tied to the bar’s products. It had to go. The Pink Turtle gift shop nearby had a funky turtle painted on the back wall, and the words “Local Art” painted in psychedelic colors. That drew code enforcement’s notice. Wham Burger on South Oceanshore somehow still has a giant burger wrapped around one of its windows, right next to a bikinied peeping Jane being followed by a robot who seems to be about to do something very inappropriate in the age of #MeToo. 

The mural at Wham Burger. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The mural at Wham Burger. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

But it was finally Swillerbees’ mural that became the test case. You have to make an effort to see it. Drivers or even pedestrians up and down Central wouldn’t see it unless they went out of their way. It’s in the alley, on the south wall of the business, the work of Allie Wisniewski and Bailey Pemberton. It depicts a gigantic smoothie on one side, and a sprinkle of donuts over and under an umbrella on the other, along with the business’ trademark bees buzzing here and there. But for the rather discreet hashtag at the bottom of the mural (#swillerbees), you wouldn’t really know it was more than a witty mural with a touch of the surreal. It brightens up an otherwise drab alley, which in any case, features another mural on the building opposite–a lighthouse and the prominent “CHRIST CHURCH” in bold dark letters against a white background.

The donuts were tied to Swillerbees’ business. So was the hashtag. It was deemed in violation of the city’s code. Swillerbees was served a courtesy notice by code enforcement. A business owner appeared before the city commission a few weeks ago along with a county tourism official. They both spoke of the added value of murals and what those murals can do for tourism and local business. The commission directed Drew Smith, its city attorney, to look into a rewrite of city codes.

Thursday evening, Smith returned with examples of mural regulations from three cities–Los Angeles, West Palm Beach and Brevard County. “There’s no one of these that I really like,” Smith said. “But I like parts of each of them.” The commission took its lead from Smith and now appears ready to adopt parts of each of the ordinances to amend its own.

“We like artistic murals, we want to encourage artistic murals, we don’t necessarily want Eric to go out and paint a big 7-Eleven,” Smith said, analyzing one of the ordinances and referring to Eric Cooley, a city commissioner and owner of the 7-Eleven on South Oceanshore Boulevard. The Brevard ordinance is permissive to that end. West Palm’s has an application and review process that attracted the attorney, and Los Angeles’s spells out dimensions that could accommodate commercial speech.

The Raw Juice Cafe across the street from City Hall. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The Raw Juice Cafe across the street from City Hall. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

“What we’re trying to accomplish is to allow commercial speech within a mural,” Smith said.

That’s what the commission favored: Doing away with the ban on any artistic expression that could symbolize or be tied to the products being sold by an establishment, and replacing that with an allowance for murals and advertising, including symbolism, the name of the business or the products being sold. But the proportion of text in comparison to the mural itself will be regulated, and the ratio of mural-to-text will be such that text will be very limited–to something like 10 percent of the total size of the mural. Under those conditions, the Swillerbees mural would be legal, Bayne’s could bring back its pig, and beer could return on bars’ murals. The big sign outside the Pink Turtle though might be too big.

The amended ordinance will also incorporate a new application process (but no permitting fee). Any business wanting to paint a mural would have to apply with the city, provide a rough rendering of the projected mural, and have the rendering go through some subjective administrative judgment. Murals deemed inappropriate would be barred. It’s not yet clear how the ordinance will spell out the difference between the appropriate and the inappropriate, but Cooley suggested that  “If you couldn’t show it on TV you can’t put it on the wall, basically.”

The will also be an appeal process. If a business is dissatisfied with the administrative judgment, it can appeal to the city commission. Murals will be restricted to commercial zones, so residential homes won’t be allowed to have murals. Businesses will not be allowed to cover up their windows or doors. 

“It’s going to be actually a large loosening,” Cooley said of the new rules. He is supportive of murals. “It’s a clever way to advertise, the tourists love it, they end up becoming miniature landmarks in themselves. There are some cities that actually have walking tours of murals.” He said the city’s economic development task force has long been discussing using murals at the city’s parking lots, which are underused, to attract attention to them and encourage their use. “It’s a great way to add a little color and character to a city,” Cooley said.

Smith will provide a new draft of the city’s sign ordinance in coming weeks.

Swillerbees' mural is not easily visible to passersby. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Swillerbees’ mural is not easily visible to passersby. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

8 Responses for “Flagler Beach Will Loosen Its Mural Rules, Allowing Businesses to Advertise Products Through Art”

  1. Old charley says:

    oh great…. now we have to look at this CR*P all over our bueatyful town… when I was a kid if you graffitied a business they would cut your hands off.. bring back the hand cut off penalty!!!!

    Next thing you know the whole place will be run over with millennials and actual job opportunities

  2. Outside Looking Out says:

    Maybe someone will paint something over that godawful donkey statue in town center. Anything would be an improvement.

  3. The Queen Bee says:

    Oh Charley,

    Let me first say, if you choose to come on a public forum to talk nonsense… perhaps you should brush up on your spelling and grammar.

    Those millennials you speak of luckily understand and utilize their electronic devices to auto correct and spell check.

    No back to the “graffiti”, Swillerbees does NOT have graffiti on the side of its building. It’s called a MURAL or interactive art.
    Something else you should know is, Swillerbees employs 23 employees. That’s 8 full time jobs and 14 part time jobs to our locals.

    You sound grumpy, interactive art is known to make folks happy and donuts even more happy, stop by Swillerbees they can take care of both😉

  4. Kahuna kahuna says:

    So… I’m not opposed to the murals. But I will say, that I dislike that a strong majority are being done by a unlicensed/insured individual “Steven B” and he’s not paying any taxes on that income he’s generating from the art. I will also state: the art on the wall when pulling into the surf shop was done with out the permission of the home owner. The wall is absolutely 100 percent part of 312 south central and although it faces the surf shop, that wall is not Carla clines and should of never been painted without the permission of the homeowner. The wall will be repainted to a solid color in the near future. There’s plenty of licensed artists like Bill stead who earn a honest living off murals and pay their taxes (I support their murals) I do not support unlicensed murals by a non contributing member of our community. Spray painting mediocre art in a commercial zone unlicensed isn’t a contribution to our local community. I truly love swillerbees and wham burger and see no issues with the way they did the art for their business and don’t direct this (novel lol) to either business.

  5. Beach goer says:

    God forbid we give some cash and creative expression to art students in high school, am I right? Did you ever mow lawns as a kid? You paid your taxes on that in sure! A mural and “spray painting mediocre art” are two completely different things. Besides, who would want ugly graffiti on their business anyway?? Interesting how Wham has gotten away with their mural and funny how you see it as less of a problem than freelancers painting buildings while theirs depicts crude taste and blantant advertising. Guess that says more about the owner of the business though.

  6. Beach Goer says:

    Unlicensed non contributing member of our community… I don’t understand what would be so wrong with giving some cash and creative expression to high schoolers or young adults? Did you mow lawn as a child? I’m sure you paid your taxes on those wages, right? The Swillerbee’s mural was done by two young girls who aren’t a licensed company (I don’t believe) and you seem to be ok with that? Spray painting mediocre art…. what business would want that on their building anyway??? Interesting how Wham has gotten away with crude gestured art and blatant advertising for so long. Though unsurprising when you look at the owner of the place.

  7. Right says:

    I like it. I expect to see things like this in a beach town.

  8. William Tolhurst says:

    Another name for graffiti, Nothing brings the value down quicker than this graffiti daubed on the sides of buildings

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