SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Cozy Inn restaurant in Salina has been told to pause work on a mural on the side of the building. The City says the painting violates Salina’s sign code policy.
The Cozy Inn owner, Steve Howard, says the art was intended to share the culture of the over 100-year-old restaurant.
“When you order at the walk-up window, you don’t get the true character … ‘the show,’ as you could say,” explained Howard.
The artwork on the outside is meant to tell that story.
“You never know where the conversation is going to go in here, so my finished product on this mural are spaceships. They’re hamburgers, but they’re UFOs,” he said.
Howard says downtown Salina has a growing popularity of murals. In October, they hosted Boom! Salina, where artists decorated the streets with artwork.
“I thought I was doing the right thing for Salina downtown because it’s all artsy. I didn’t know it’d be this big of an issue,” he explained.
However, the city manager says it’s not just art.
“It includes a message that pertains to the good or service for sale, and that makes it a sign and makes it subject to the sign code,” said Mike Schrage, Salina City Manager.
The current code states businesses in the C-4 district, like The Cozy Inn, are limited to four signs, which must fit into the zoning lot restrictions. Schrage says the mural is nearly 10 times larger than what the code allows.
“They basically get 63 square feet, and they have three signs already,” he explained.
Collin Benson is the artist behind the mural, who has done many paintings around the city. He says he’s never had this problem.
“It shouldn’t matter where it is, what it is, as long as it’s art. And I think it’s art. I think that’s pretty much art,” said Benson.
In the City Commission meeting on Monday, there was a discussion about a solution to the unfinished art. Some commissioners considered bringing in an outside consultant to clarify the difference between a sign and art.
Most Commissioners agreed that the 57-year-old code could use changes to adjust the growing artwork in Salina. They say they want to collaborate with The Cozy Inn to find a solution.
“Whatever we do in the way of a change in zoning code needs to apply to everyone. It can’t be business specific or particular to that sign,” explained Schrage.
There is no timeline for a possible change to the city sign code. Until a decision is made, the project is paused indefinitely.
“Even if it is next year, I get it. But man, it just kind of puts a thorn in my side going man, it’s not finished,” said Benson. He says he is willing to paint the wall back to white until they figure out how to proceed.
“That wall’s been blank for so many years. Just white wall, and I just want to add character to it,” said Howard.