STARKVILLE — “Oh Look! Another Glorious Morning!” read the sign at the Strange Brew on Highway 12 in Starkville on Wednesday.
Every day, citizens of Starkville and out-of-town visitors drive by this famous sign, reading the funny sayings or hopeful messages it displays. Since the sign’s installation nearly 30 years ago, the business has arranged birthday greetings, assisted in proposals and taunted opposing teams who were in town to challenge the Mississippi State University Bulldogs.
But soon, this sign will no longer be featured high in the Starkville sky — at least not in its current form.
Due to an ordinance approved by the board of aldermen in 2011, all pole signs throughout the city must come down and be replaced with a strictly-outlined monument sign. Mayor Lynn Spruill said Strange Brew can keep their sign, just in a different capacity than it currently stands.
“The sign doesn’t have to go away,” Spruill said. “The sign just needs to become a monument sign, and they can still put their sayings and witticisms and word plays on a monument sign instead of a pole sign.”
Defined in the Starkville Code of Ordinances, a monument sign is any ground sign supported totally by a solid base of masonry, brick or other material, whose base is not less than 80 percent of the total sign area width, while a pole sign means any sign erected, constructed or maintained for the purpose of displaying outdoor advertising… affixed in the ground or on the ground and not attached to any part of a building.
Spruill said the ordinance’s intent regulates signs across town, making them more uniform. The outlined monument signs must be no larger than 80 square feet and no taller than eight feet in height and be at least five feet away from the nearest road.
After the ordinance passed in April 2011, businesses that did not have signs that met these proper standards were given a period of 10 years, which was extended another year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to replace their signs and a chance to advertise their current ones as a business expense.
Businesses have until May 5, 2022 to take down their pole signs, and if the sign still remains after that date, Spruill said she believes the maximum daily penalty will be $1,000.
“When we passed this in 2011, any signs that were built or asked for after that, new construction, old construction, any new signs that were asked for, had to be monument signs,” Spruill said. “As a go forward standpoint, all those folks who have put new signs in have complied because that is the ordinance.”
After Spruill sent an email to the nearly 75 businesses that still have pole signs up and are affected by the ordinance, Strange Brew’s Twitter and Facebook accounts posted the business’ sign is more than just signage, asking that it not be taken down as it makes Starkville special.
“The new sign ordinance would require us to kill our beloved Strange Brew sign,” a Strange Brew tweet reads. “It’s an important part of our Strange Brew history, and I hope it’s been an important part of our local community by making people laugh and brighten days. How can we #SaveTheBrewSign?”
Hundreds of comments and tweets began flowing in from Starkville residents, citing that this significant sign should not be removed. Spruill said the board “cannot and will not discriminate” and plans to continue on with the ordinance.
The Dispatch attempted to contact Strange Brew for comments, but only a manager was available Wednesday who diverted a reporter to the owner, Shane Reed, who did not respond to emails by press time.
Other businesses that will be affected include multiple tire shops along Highway 12, McDonalds on Highway 12 and Spruill’s own business, Spruill Property Management, which also still displays a pole sign.
Spruill said she thinks it will cost around $10,000 to replace the sign at her business.
Ward 4 Alderman Mike Brooks, who was not on the board when the ordinance was passed but serves the ward where Strange Brew is located, said he understands Strange Brew’s concerns but believes the board should continue with the ordinance. He said he plans to work with Starkville City Planner Daniel Havelin on solutions that work for businesses in his ward.
“I feel for these guys, but it was passed, and there has been some time out there, and I feel like that’s probably going to be the will of the board to continue on with this,” Brooks said. “If you think about it, just across the street from Strange Brew is Chick-fil-A with a monument sign, and every sign that has been replaced is a monument sign.”
Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins, who represents Ward 6 and was one of the votes in favor of the ordinance in 2011, echoed Brooks, saying these businesses have had sufficient due process and adequate time to replace their signs. He said he will not support any type of special exception, such as the Strange Brew sign, because it is not fair to the rest of the businesses who have spent money on replacing their pole signs with monument signs over the last 10 years.
“The bottom line is, I’m going to vote for strict enforcement and strict compliance,” Perkins said. “… I am not going to support special exceptions, and it wouldn’t be fair. The best thing to do is if you have strict enforcement, that has the effect of treating everyone the same and equally.”
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, who voted against the ordinance in 2011, said he believes the board should rescind the ordinance and allow businesses to keep their current signs. While corporate chains and businesses may have the necessary money to fund new signs, he said this ordinance could financially hurt small stores and “mom-and-pop shops” due to rising prices over the past year and a half due to COVID-19.
“I think we should take the necessary time and have (board attorney Chris Latimer) draft something to not enact this sign ordinance,” Carver said. “It’s not detrimental to anything. Signs are why we’re called ‘StarkVegas’ — the college town atmosphere along with the high signs.”
Ward 3 Alderman Jeffrey Rupp and Ward 5 Alderman Hamp Beatty both told The Dispatch they are in favor of keeping the ordinance as it stands. Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, who voted in favor of the ordinance in 2011, and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn, who voted against it, did not respond to calls by press time.