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Shop owners claim harassment by city

Owners of Fat Boys Subs say building inspector bugging them over cartoon logo

Owners of Fat Boys Subs say building inspector bugging them over cartoon logo

December 10, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN - A Charles Town sub shop owner says he feels he is being harassed by the city's building inspector over the store's use of a cartoon figure named "Chubb Chubb" and is calling on customers to help him fight what he calls a "tyranny" in town.

Brent Ricketts, who with his wife and brother runs Fat Boys Subs at 219 W. Washington St., said the city is threatening him with a $500 fine or up to six months in jail if the logo is not removed from the store.

With drug transactions, speeding, parking violations and "tacky signs galore" existing in other areas of town, Ricketts said he cannot believe the town is spending as much time as it has focusing on his business.

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"I just want to be left alone," Ricketts said Monday afternoon.

Ricketts has been distributing a flier at the shop encouraging customers to help save "Chubb Chubb," who is shown with his stomach hanging below his T-shirt as he gets ready to munch down on a sub.

The flier gives names and phone numbers for local officials like city Building Inspector Scott Coyle, Planning and Zoning Administrator Annette van Hilst, City Manager Jane Arnett, City Attorney Braun Hamstead and Mayor Randy Hilton.

"If you find this to be as ridiculous as we do, please call the mayor and city council and tell them to leave the Fat Boys alone. Please help us save Chubb Chubb!" the flier reads.

Coyle said Monday he has been diplomatic every time he has talked to the owners of Fat Boys Subs over the logo's use.

Coyle said he is simply enforcing an agreement between the owners of the business and the Historic Landmarks Commission.

"In no way do I harass," Coyle said.

Fat Boys owners and Historic Landmarks Commission members agreed on June 10 that the cartoon would not appear on an outside sign after members of the commission said the logo would not be appropriate for the downtown area, according to a letter that was sent to Ricketts from van Hilst.

City officials further noted that the "Chubb Chubb" logo should not be visible from the street, van Hilst's letter said.

The downtown area was designated a historical district about four or five years ago and the city wants to have business signs that are appropriate for a historical area, said Hilton.

Hilton and van Hilst declined to comment on the matter Monday.

Although council member Randy Breeden declined to comment about the issue, he said he cannot not imagine Coyle harassing anyone.

Coyle will always "bend over backwards" to help a business with a city building inspection issue, Breeden said.

Coyle said he went to the business and reminded the owners of the agreement after he saw the "Chubb Chubb" logo hanging inside the front window.

At one point, Ricketts said he moved the logo, which is about 2 feet by 4 feet in size, about 4 feet from the window. Coyle came in and said it was still not far enough back from the window, Ricketts said.

On Friday, Ricketts said he received the letter from van Hilst saying the property was in violation of the zoning ordinance because the sign is visible from the street.

The letter instructs brothers Craig and Brent Ricketts to complete "all corrective actions within 30 days."

The letter said violations of the ordinance are punishable by a possible fine of $500 or imprisonment in the Eastern Regional Jail for not more than six months.

Ricketts said he has now moved the "Chubb Chubb" logo to a doorway in the middle of the shop that leads to the kitchen area. It is about 20 feet from the front door.

Coyle would not say Monday whether moving the logo to that location would satisfy city officials.

Coyle would say only that he will inspect Fat Boys again if requested.

In an e-mail sent to a newspaper, Ricketts said he and his brother and his wife Sunshine have been working and struggling long hours to make the business a success.

"However, ever since day one, we have been targeted by the local historic committee and the city of Charles Town," Ricketts said in the e-mail.

Ricketts said he and his family were "belittled" by members of the committee and they initially did not like the colors the business was using.

Ricketts said Monday he and his family are trying to have fun running the business. The sub shop's menu offers sandwiches like the Fat Cow, the Fat Calf and the Boss Hog and customers seem to like the offerings, Ricketts said.

"People crack up when they come in and read our menu," Ricketts said.

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