Photo: Nicholas Pizza / Contributed Photo
TORRINGTON — Nicholas Pizza on Water Street has been in business for 37 years, and, each year, owner Ninoos Yousefdadeh updates the wording on a white banner under the dining room window of his eatery on the outside wall of the building.
This year it reads “Nicholas Pizza, celebrating 37 years in business” with the phone number, the date of the anniversary, and a thank you.
But this year, Yousefdadeh received a letter from the city’s land use office stating that the banner and his A-frame signs on the sidewalk — one advertising the business sells state lottery tickets and another reminding passersby of the daily lunch special — are not allowed, according to the city’s zoning regulations.
“The letter I got says the signs are not allowed at all at my business, unless I pay $75 for a permit,” Yousefdadeh said.
“I’ve had the sign up all this time,” he said. “I’m not happy about this. The sign is on the brick of the building, that I own. … It’s not on the sidewalk.
“I have tripod signs, and everyone else around here uses those,” he said. “Everyone else has chairs and tables outside, too. But that sign has been up for years. It’s on my building.”
Zoning Enforcement Officer Jeremy Leifert issued the violation letter to Yousefdadeh, according to City Planner Marty Connor. Leifert is on vacation and could not be reached for comment. Connor referred all questions to Leifert.
“He needs to get permits (for the sign),” Connor said.
A banner sign such as the one at Nicholas Pizza’s is supposed to be approved by the land use office, according to the ordinances.
Torrington’s ordinances governing signs are available at torringtonct.org. According to the regulations, www.torringtonct.org/sites/g/files/vyhlif5091/f/uploads/sign_regulations_5-15.pdf, numerous rules govern the use of signage at a business, depending on where it is located and how it is being used.
The ordinance defines sign rules this way: “Because of possible harmful impacts, signs must be regulated to: 1. Prevent hazards to automobile and pedestrian traffic by regulating size, height, location and number of signs. 2. Ensure clarity and legible content. 3. Complement the overall character of the City of Torrington. 4. Support both businesses and community by making services and goods easily accessible.”
In the case of Yousefdadeh’s banner, the regulations describe it as “any sign of lightweight fabric or similar flexible material that is securely mounted to a building or structure. Banners must be securely mounted and cannot be mounted by rope, string or other method of tie that would allow the banner to flap or become loose.” The restaurant’s banner is below the front window.
Yousefdadeh said he previously hung a flag-type sign from the building, and was told he had to take it down. “They said to remove it, because it was distracting people while they were driving up the street,” he said. “Now I’m getting this.”
Like many other restaurants and bars in Connecticut, Yousefdadeh has struggled to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic. Until recently, he was unable to serve customers in the dining room, and had to depend solely on takeout to make money.
“I’m a small business,” he said. “I’m trying to keep my doors open, to make a living. It’s been like this for the last nine months. I’m broke as it is, and now they want me to pay $75? It’s extortion. It’s like fighting with my hands tied behind my back.”