In time for the start of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump (R), a banner was hung above Roger’s Frigate candy and ice cream shop in Port Jeff reading “In Trump We Trust” on the building’s second floor.
Barabara Sakovich, the village clerk, said the building and planning department has issued a new order to remedy to the owner, George Wallis, after it was hung. The village has maintained the sign violates code 250-31D regarding signs, specifically the size and material of the sign being hung across the building’s second floor.
Frigate General Manager Roger Rutherford did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The clerk said she had already received some complaints as of Wednesday, but other than the violations of code, the village cannot restrict freedom of speech.
The business owner has five days, starting Jan. 21, to remove the sign or face a financial penalty.
The sign that was first spotted Jan. 21 was the same banner hung on the building in 2017 during the president’s inauguration, which had caused both ire and praise from the local community. That sign had been ordered down by the Village of Port Jefferson, saying it violated village code.
In October last year, the village board unanimously passed a resolution reducing the number of days a sign can be up before it must be removed from 30 to five. Village Attorney Brian Egan said the change was to cut down on time that the board felt was too long for a violating sign to be up, especially when applying for a permit is “not burdensome.”
He added that the courts and village comply with a broad reading on the first amendment, but municipalities such as the village have rights to impose “content-neutral” regulations, such as size, material, ect. Those regulations were in place before the frigate originally installed the sign in 2017.
The candy store owner had put up the same sign three years ago in January 2017, during Trump’s inauguration. The banner caused several days of controversy before it was taken down. Rutherford said at the time the plan had already been to take the sign down after a few days.
Reaction on community Facebook groups was similarly divided as it was three years ago, with some congratulating the shop while others claimed they had been boycotting the shop since 2017.
Wallis has been a character in Port Jefferson for decades, and the Frigate has become a major staple within that community. The owner of the candy store, as well as the neighboring The Steam Room, has also been known as a maverick in some of his past decisions on his properties, such as in 2002 when he briefly replaced a statue of Thomas Jefferson with one of an eagle to commemorate those lost in 9/11, according to the New York Times.
Additional reporting by David Luces