I drove to Rio Grande, NJ on Saturday to meet George Fotakis, the embattled owner of the Four Seasons Diner...glad I did. As I entered the township I noticed all sorts of banners being displayed by business owners, as well as American flags of all shapes and sizes. Makes me wonder why they are singling him out.
This updates star53's video which can be found here: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=9a0_1310794817&comments=1
A little more info on the story.
By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer
MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — The owner of a Cape May County diner is calling foul over the township’s demand that he take down patriotic banners over his parking lot.
George Fotakis, owner of Four Seasons Diner on Route 9 in Rio Grande, said the township forced him last month to take down decorative strings of red, white and blue pennants that he hung over his parking lot for Independence Day.
These pennants joined a row of small American flags on the lawn, window stickers and flag posters that hang on the sides of booths.
Fotakis, 67, of Deptford Township, got a copy of the township’s sign ordinance, which allows American flags. So he replaced the pennants with strings of small American flags crisscrossing his parking lot. This week the township’s code officer, James Amenhauser, was back to tell the diner owner the flag pennants, too, were illegal and had to come down.
Fotakis served in the Greek military and worked as a state police detective before emigrating from Greece in 1967. He later became an American citizen. He said he is holding his ground over the little flags.
“The flag symbolizes our country. It’s our everything,” he said. “You celebrate your birthday with a cake. You celebrate your country’s birthday with the flag.”
Even the diner’s sign is red, white and blue, which is no accident, Fotakis said.
“I’m not taking it down,” he said.
Township Administrator Mark Mallett said the issue was about the streamers — not the stars and stripes.
“The issue isn’t patriotism or not patriotism. You can’t have strings of those pennants hanging up,” he said. “If he wants flags in the ground or flags off his building, that’s fine.”
Businesses along Route 9 fly numerous large flags of different shapes bearing the names of businesses. American flags are a common sight as well in the business district.
“There is an ordinance saying you can’t fly stringed banners or pennants going from the ground up to your building,” Mallett said. “These types of pennants create a distraction to drivers. That’s why they’re not permitted.”
Diner manager Linda Chambers noted there is a national movement this year to encourage Americans to fly their flags through Sept. 11, the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Mallett said Fotakis is being asked to comply with the request this week or he could be issued a court summons and face fines of as much as $1,000.
Mayor Susan DeLanzo said she suspects the ordinance was drafted to create some uniformity concerning decorations on storefronts.
“Whenever we do things, we’re very business-friendly. We’ve never gone out to try to hurt business or prohibit business,” said DeLanzo, who owns a restaurant in Middle Township. “But we try to have some uniformity so it’s aesthetically pleasing. I have to believe that was the intent of the ordinance.”
DeLanzo said she does not think it is unreasonable for the township’s code officer to ask Fotakis to take down the streamers. And there are other ways for him to express his patriotism, she said.
“We want to encourage him to fly the American flag,” she said.
Contact Michael Miller:
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In: Regional News, Politics, WTF, Creative, Citizen Journalism
Tags: NJ, Diner Owner, Four Seasons, immigrant, Greece, American Flag, George, Fotakis, American, Citizen
Location: Rio Grande, New Jersey, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
Views: 4723 | Comments: 17 | Votes: 6 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 4
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