Government to Pizzeria: You Can Paint a Mural, Just Not One That Features Pizza | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Government to Pizzeria: You Can Paint a Mural, Just Not One That Features Pizza

In November of last year, local favorite Goody's spruced up the exterior of its Clarendon location with a mural depicting pizza alongside various common toppings, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, and olives. The idea was to "get a little more attention from people walking by," owner Glenda Alverez tells the local news site arlnow.com.

Unfortunately for Alverez and her business, the mural turned out to be against the law. Under Arlington County's sign code, no mural painted on the outside of a business may depict the products sold inside.

Had the pizzeria's mural featured car parts, clothing, or something else that the restaurant doesn't sell, the artwork would likely have escaped the enforcers' notice. Instead, zoning officials promptly notified the business that it was out of compliance and that its exterior would likely have to be repainted. This past week, the mushrooms and olives gave way to a uniform lime green paint job.

Forcing a business to repaint a mural because of its content is not just petty. According to Robert Frommer, an attorney with the libertarian Institute for Justice, it is unconstitutional. If a code says that "certain subjects or topics...are prohibited," he explains, that means it's "preventing you from speaking on certain subjects just because they don't like the message." Therefore, he argues, the law violates the First Amendment.

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