WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — A new business moved into an old historic building and now a sign is causing a stir.
The owner of Roar, a dining and entertainment district in Downtown Winston-Salem, says that the city isn’t keeping its promises to the business. City leaders say that it’s the business that isn’t playing fair.
The uproar is over the materials their sign is made of.
Simon Burgess, the managing director of Roar, says that he aims to preserve the history of the building. The issues started when they changed the face of the sign. They filed for a certificate of approval for the change, but the changes were denied. The sign is made from materials that are more modern than the building, built in 1925, which is one of the rules that a business has to follow in order for a building to receive designation as a local historic landmark.
Burgess said he spoke with representatives from the city and Winston-Salem’s Historic Resource Officer, Michelle McCullough, on May 13, 2022.
“When we finished the meeting, we compromised and the city and Michelle McCullough stated that if the National Park Service did not object to the signs, and they will not object to the signs,” Burgess said.
Burgess and the city are in disagreement about what happened after that meeting.
“So I went back to Michelle McCullough and said ‘I received a letter on the 23rd of November and they are not objecting to the signs’ and her response was ‘we have nothing to do with National Parks Service and I don’t care we are going to make you take them down or we are going to fine you $110 a day,'” said Burgess,
However, Winston-Salem said that the National Parks Service denied the request to approve the sign, and that key documentation was not submitted.
“They were asking if they could submit that documentation with a revised request for a COA. That documentation was never submitted to the city. We learned after the fact that the Park Service denied their request,” Frank Elliot, Director of Marketing for the city of Winston-Salem, said.
The designation of a historical landmark comes with a long list of rules and pretty big incentives for business owners, so the city says it’s simply a matter of holding all business owners to the same standards.
“The city is simply asking the owners of Roar to follow the same rules that everybody else has to follow when they request and receive designation as a local historic landmark,” said Elliot. “As part of the quid pro quo they agreed to follow certain rules about maintaining the historic character of the building,” he said. “That gives them a considerable break in their taxes…50% off on their tax bill.”
To Burgess, it’s a matter of principal.
“We can’t let these people bully the owners downstairs. We’ve got to stand up to downtown. We’ve got to stand up at some stage,” he said.
“From the city’s perspective, it’s not about the money, and it’s not about the fines. We want compliance with the ground rules that everybody else has to follow,” said Elliot.
The fines will go into effect Wednesday, but will not accrue indefinitely. Once the fines reach $3000, the issue will be turned over to the city attorneys.
Simon hopes to speak with someone “further up the ladder” and find some kind of compromise on the sign.