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Billy Corgan Gets Tea House Sign Approved

The Smashing Pumpkins' frontman put a 44-inch neon sign in front of his Highland Park tea house without permission from the city. The City Council okayed it on Monday.

The City of Highland Park approved the neon sign in front of Billy Corgan's tea shop months after the shop opened.

Madame ZuZu's opened last September in Ravinia. Owned by the Smashing Pumpkins' frontman, the cafe soon began displaying a Corgan-designed, neon sign in the front window, which is prohibited by Highland Park city code, according to The Highland Park News. The sign is 44-inches tall.

Instead of asking for a presentation for the variance request, the Highland Park City Council unanimously approved it at Monday night's meeting, according to The Tribune. Moments later, Mayor Nancy Rotering thanked Corgan for opening the tea house in Highland Park.

In a letter to Patch, blogger Bob Levi wondered why the variance was approved so quickly. 

"Let's say that after I open [a hypothetical retail store] I install a four-foot by 13-foot neon sign that covers over 50 percent of the window rather than the regulated 10 percent," Levi said. "My guess is that I'd be given a certain number of days to take the sign down or be fined. I doubt if I'd get a hug by the mayor."

Levi wondered if Corgan's celebrity status got him unfair treatment.

"Shouldn't he be treated the same way as anyone?" Levi asked. "Maybe I'm naive, but it's another example of rules and laws not being applied equally."

City Councilwoman Sally Higginson told Patch there was no special treatment for Corgan.

"There was no discussion of 'He's Billy Corgan, let's do whatever he wants.'" Higginson said. She then added, with a laugh, "but we would have loved to have heard him sing at the council meeting... that would have been special."

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Bob Levi January 19, 2013 at 03:16 PM
I wonder what the city staff report to the City Council (that was never read at the recent meeting) recommended? Can one obtain the report through a Freedom of Information request? Just wonderin' BTW - I received a phone call from someone on the City Council? I was told that the City needs to review its enforcement programs. The only point made about the signage ordinace and the varience given to Mr. Corgan was that the law has a great deal of flexibility. It was admitted that the Mayor and City Council should not have acted as rashly as they did. (I guess you can't take back what has already been done. Politica works in strange ways!)
Bryce Robertson January 19, 2013 at 05:23 PM
No FOIA request necessary, just check out the city council's agenda packet, which is available on their website. Staff reporting recommended that the council consider and approve the variance, as well as directing Corp Counsel to prep an ordinance allowing the variance. The council is expected to read all documents in the agenda packet, so if they had no questions and agreed with the recommendation, no need to waste everyone's time. Celebrity or not, Billy took over a dilapidated, vacant space in downtown Ravinia and turned it into a local "hot spot". I wish we had more of those in downtown HP.
MisterE January 20, 2013 at 12:05 AM
Granted, any new establishment is better than another spa, nail salon, dry cleaners, but calling this a local hot spot is hilarious. Methinks you must've walked into the barbecue joint down the block. The only reason the place gets business is that Java Love closed.
Tony Scrivener January 26, 2013 at 11:09 PM
Good luck to Billy with his venture. Being creative I guess will sometimes clash with the commercial, but it's something we have to deal with. Retail outlets should be given more freedom esp in these times of the internet and a sliding economy.
Sue Roses January 27, 2013 at 09:22 PM
I agree totally. It is not about the whether the sign is nice or not, but how the rules are applied. There have been numerous businesses that have inadvertently broken a sign code, were called on it, and had to go to the added expense of replacing it, some with less padding in their pockets than Mr . Corgan . Either change the codes or apply them equally . The exceptions seem to only be made for those who appear to be in the inside . This perception will only hurt the community in the long term .

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