As city politicians aim to kill Vancouver's reputation as 'No Fun City' bylaw officials have told an East Van brewery its nearly decade-old mural will have to be painted over.
Storm Brewing, founded in 1994 at 310 Commercial Dr., has been a leader in the neighbourhood's vibrant craft beer scene; almost 10 years ago they hired a local arts collective to spruce up the wall outside their longtime home, creating a popular piece of art featuring "Storm" in huge letters, along with rats and brewing equipment.
Why the mural has to go
That piece of art may not be around in August, according to Storm's general manager Mike Crozier. At the end of May, the brewery recived a letter explaining they had 60 days to obtain the proper permits for the mural.
When he looked into what sort of permits were needed, Crozier found out they wouldn't get approved.
"It's because beer is the product we sell and rats are in our branding," he explains, noting the giant "STORM" on the side of the building might actually be allowed if it takes up 10 per cent of the wall's area.
"I'm in the process of doing that permit, but [the mural] might be too big," he tells V.I.A.
Storm has looked into another option, such as creating a graffiti wall like the one at Pender and Abbot in the DTES, but was told it would also be unlikely to be approved.
With less than a month until the mural is supposed to be painted over, Crozier posted to social media, inviting fans of the mural to come see it one last time before it disappears.
"I guess one positive thing is the city has offered to paint over it for us at no cost," he notes.
In a statement sent to V.I.A. the City of Vancouver notes it became aware of the unpermitted mural during a "regular patio review" earlier this summer.
"The City has been in contact with the property owner and awaits their application for a permit," states the municipal government. "We look forward to working with them to bring the mural into compliance."
Alerting the masses
Crozier expected his post would garner a bit of attention when he posted it July 19, but hoped it would give people a chance to come; he notes it's a popular background for people taking photos, including for weddings.
Then he went to bed, a bit early.
Overnight, Storm's post about the mural caught the eye of many locals, who were surprised and irked that the city would target a piece of art that had been in place for nearly a decade in an industrial East Vancouver area.
Several Vancouver city councillors chimed in, including Coun. Peter Meiszner, who says he and other councillors are working to find a way to keep the mural.
"If it's not causing an issue I don't want the policy hammer to come down on this small business," Meiszner tells V.I.A.
He says council is looking at creating an amendment that would allow the mural to stay; they're hoping to have it ready for the July 25 meeting, but are still researching the bylaw and trying to find out what exactly triggered the bylaw letter. Crozier asked the City if it was due to a complaint, but was told the City couldn't legally disclose that.
"On the surface, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me," says Meiszner. "Why is it an issue now? We haven't given any direction to staff to be more stringent on sign bylaws."
He adds that there need to be bylaws around signs, but that they need to make sense.
"I don't think anyone is coming out defending this (enforcement action)," he says.
Both Crozier and Meiszner are hopeful the mural gets to stay, but hesitant on whether it will.
"We're doing what we can in order to save it, if possible," says the city councillor.
"I really hope (it stays), but I don't expect it to be honest," says the brewery manager. "It seems pretty cut and dry; when you read the bylaw, I guess it is breaking it."
V.I.A. has updated this story with a statement from the City of Vancouver.