MARIETTA — After an uproar erupted on social media, the city of Marietta has apologized to a Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q manager and told her the restaurant is welcome to fly flags expressing support for the military — just in time for the July 4 holiday.
Before the Roswell Road restaurant opened Wednesday morning, a code enforcement officer cited the eatery for flying non-governmental flags and said they must be taken down within 48 hours, General Manager Michelle Jehlen said.
The two flags in question were one bearing a POW-MIA logo and another with the insignias of America’s armed forces above the motto “We Support Our Troops”
“So we did take them down — we didn’t want the fine,” Jehlen said.
But because the flags have been flying in front of the restaurant every day for years and managers didn’t want customers to think they had taken them down just ahead of the July 4 holiday without good reason, they posted the citation on their Twitter and Facebook pages.
And that got everybody’s attention.
“It just blew up,” Jehlen said. “It went crazy.”Video below is courtesy of our news partner Fox 5 Atlanta
News of the incident spread across the Internet, and patrons who asked where the flags had gone were shown where they were on display inside the restaurant — with the city’s warning hanging firmly between them.
“All the customers asked us last night and this morning (why the flags were down),” Jehlen said Thursday.
On Thursday morning, Brian Binzer, Marietta’s director of development services, went to the restaurant and apologized, telling Jehlen she was welcome to fly the two flags.
Binzer told the Journal that the code inspector who issued the warning couldn’t read the flags because the wind was not blowing at the time and had assumed they were advertisements for the business.
It is not city policy to cite a business for unauthorized flags without seeing the flags themselves, he said.
“Code inspectors customarily do not issue warnings based on assumptions and we are in the process of reviewing this matter internally,” Binzer said. “Part of this process is to see if procedures were followed or not and how we can improve the process to prevent a similar incident from happening again.”
Binzer would not reveal the identity of the code inspector.
Jehlen said the flag flap couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“It’s our busiest week of the year. It’s horrible timing on their part,” she said. “We’ve always supported the troops. (Restaurant founders) Danny and Larry Williamson support the community as a whole, but absolutely the military. So for anyone to ask us to take them down seems absurd.”
Flags have had a rough time in Marietta in recent years. In 2007, the city made national headlines when then-mayor Bill Dunaway initially told local members of Veterans of Foreign Wars that they could not hand out miniature flags during the city’s annual Fourth of July parade, citing a policy stating “Absolutely no distribution/throwing of candy or other materials during the parade — this is a safety issue and will be strictly enforced.”
Dunaway relented the weekend before the parade, saying no veterans would be arrested for handing out American flags.
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