St. Paul neighbor says Tavern on Grand's marquee lights are annoying

A complaint from a neighbor prompted the City of St. Paul to agree there may be a code violation at Tavern on Grand.

The city says the owners have to prove their shimmering row of bulbs on their marquee have functioned the same way as before an ordinance was enacted over 30 years ago. If they can do it, they would officially be grandfathered in, ending the battle.

The classic marquee has been a Grand Avenue attraction, even before Ashley Lemay's family opened the restaurant a couple decades ago. They've never had any complaints about their signage until now.

Brian Smith moved in across the street and complained to the city that the lights were too distracting. He didn't want to speak on camera, but sent a statement that said "the exterior lighting was so bright, it lit up my entire living room. In addition to the brightness, the bigger issue was the constant flashing exterior lights going until 2:30 am every morning."

A city inspector came out at the end of March, and determined the Tavern's lights did indeed violate a city ordinance that says lights need to be constant in intensity and color at all times, forcing the marquee to go dim for more than a month.

Lemay thinks business decreased because people thought they were closed. But she did her research and found out the lights have been there since the 1930s and asked the city if they were grandfathered in. After weeks of waiting, she finally got an answer Monday afternoon.

Dan Niziolek with the Department of Safety and Inspections said the Tavern needs to prove the lights have functioned this way before the ordinance went into effect on March 6, 1981. Until they figure that out, the lights are back on.

According to the city, a letter will be sent to the Tavern this week and the owners have 10 days to come up with their evidence. They'll face fines if they don't present the evidence and leave the lights blinking.
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