Flying Dog could get stuck with graffiti bill

A Frederick City worker uses a high pressure washer to remove spray chalk graffiti placed by Flying Dog Brewery throughout downtown on sidewalks advertising a upcoming local beer festival. The city may seek reimbursement from the business for the cost of removing the graffiti. (Frederick News-Post/Bill Green)

Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick could owe the city money for cleanup costs after city workers on Tuesday washed away graffiti logos sprayed on sidewalks by the brewery two weeks ago, according to the Frederick Police Department.

The logos were a promotional tool for Gonzofest, an upcoming event at the brewery. Colorful symbols lined downtown sidewalks with the brewery’s website; another symbol displayed a man with big sunglasses and a hat.

The police department Tuesday said about 100 graffiti tags were in the city, but the brewery said there were only 64.

“This graffiti was placed on sidewalks all over the downtown area,” police said in a news release.

Marc Stachowski, deputy director of public works, said Monday during a telephone interview with The Frederick News-Post that he was unaware of the brewery’s symbols.

But Stachowski’s department took action on Tuesday after consulting the police.

City workers used power washers to get rid of the brewery’s symbols, which were chalked along North Bentz Street on the perimeter of Baker Park. The markings were also on Market Street.

Stachowski could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Erin Biles, public relations manager for Flying Dog, said the brewery marked downtown sidewalks with “spray chalk” without asking for permission first.

She said other businesses have done the same thing and that is why the brewery did not ask for approval.

But not asking for approval violated city rules.

The city’s graffiti ordinance bans unauthorized drawings on public or private property. The ordinance also bans the use of chalk, but an exception is made for easily removable chalk or other water- soluble markings.

This exemption is associated with traditional children’s activities such as drawing bases for a ballgame or hopscotch. Approved public art projects are also exempt, police said.

The cost of removal could leave the brewery with a bill from the Department of Public Works if an agreement is reached. It was unclear how much the cleanup would cost.

Police Cpl. John Corbett said the brewery will not be fined or cited, even though violators of the ordinance could face a $250 fine for a first offense and $500 per offense after that.

Corbett said the brewery will not be fined because “there was no criminal intent.”

Biles said the brewery was only trying to promote its festival and did not cause permanent damage to city property.

Richard Griffin, director of economic development, empathized with Flying Dog, saying he understands the importance of advertising.

But he also said there are guidelines business owners must follow.

“Sometimes we just have to limit those types of things to make sure we maintain a vibrant and attractive community,” Griffin said of the markings.

He described advertisements and signs downtown as a “slippery slope” for business owners.

Police said Tuesday that some downtown business owners have occasionally applied sidewalk chalk in front of their businesses to promote an event or daily special, but they are encouraged to get permission from the city before applying chalk to city sidewalks to ensure compliance with the ordinance.

“I think it’s a learning tool for everybody,” Corbett said.

He wants the Board of Aldermen to consider adding a city code that would allow temporary symbols similar to those the brewery sprayed.

“I don’t think it would a bad idea,” he said.

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