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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Some call it an icon standing strong for more than 50 years, but the City of Wilmington does not think this restaurant sign should stay up.

The owner of Flip’s Bar-B-Que House on Oleander Drive received a notice from the city to take down his sign by tomorrow, but after we started making calls, the city says it made a mistake, and the sign can stay up a little longer.

Monday Flip’s owner Bob Church was getting ready to tear his beloved sign down. After standing tall for more than half a century, the City of Wilmington told Church the sign is too big and too close to the road.

“I wouldn’t complain, but since it’s an antique sign, and I know they have regulations, I understand it, but they should have started it as of 2000, 2001, 2002 and regulate the signs,” Church said. “But there’s 180 signs that have to come down on Oleander Drive. I mean, it’s crazy.”

When we started working on this story Monday morning, we contacted the city for more information on the rules and regulations governing signs like the one at Flip’s. Our inquiry led to the city finding paperwork allowing Church time to take his sign down had the wrong date. The documents said church had until Tuesday, but it turns out Flip’s has until September 1, 2012.

Still, customers think the sign should stay up for good.

“It’s a landmark,” customer Matt White said. “It’s been there for 50 years. You know, why continue to harass people over something that is so insignificant? It’s a good ways off the street. Maybe 15 to 20 feet. They’re just looking for something.”

Church says the sign will stay for now. He’s canceled the crane and crew to take it down. He says he plans to wait as long as possible to take it down, which should be August 31, 2012.

The city says the reason the sign must come down are rules that took effect when it annexed that stretch of Oleander in 2000. The sign changes were supposed to happen last year, but the city granted a two-year extension in August.

Comment on this Story

  • Dixie

    That sign allowed national restaurant critics to find Flips and spend time in Wilmington! Check out latest podcast on NPR’s Splendid Table. Traveling roadside gourmets Jane and Michael Stern gave Flips a great review:


  • Guest123456

    Leave flip’s alone…if a sign needs to come down it should be the store up the road. I believe it is a furniture store…there sign is SO STINKIN BRIGHT that when you drive down the road at night you are squinting until you get by it just because it hurts your eyes so much. If any sign needs to come down it is that one…I don’t know the store name because I really try hard NOT to look at the sign…LEAVE FLIP’s ALONE!

  • Guest28429

    Annexation by the City of Wilmington only increases taxes for citizens. There is not one service offered by the city that county residents need for the increased price. The City Council needs to focus on the things necessary to improve the city all around and stop with the petty stuff. The sign at Flip’s should be grandfathered. In this economy you really want to force these additonal cost of tearing down signs and erecting new ones on small businesses. Please start to tackle something more important.

  • Guest

    I agree. One of the worst things I’ve seen happen in Wilmington was the tearing down of The Ice House !

  • Guest

    Why doesn’t WWAY research and report on the legality of enforcing municipal codes in an annexed area after annexation. I would think that the concept of “grandfathered in” would apply here and it seems to me to be an obviously integral part of the reporting that would make this a NEWS article, not just a sensation piece designed to evoke the emotions of the reader.

  • guesty

    Don’t read the story.

  • irish1

    Like it was once apon a time … It used to be the best in Southeastern NC

  • Grand Ole Party

    If you don’t find it newsworthy, DON’T READ IT!!! But alas you even took the time to post a comment.

  • Mary

    Wow… more and more everyday I see these changes made it Wilmington. I am from Wilmington but have lived out of state b/c hubby is a soldier. Articles like these heal me when I get homesick.. It reminds me more and more why I dont want to live in Wilmington. It has been become a town I no longer reconize anymore.. Everything I loved about my beautiful Wilmington is changing into something I dont reconize.

  • Guesttunes

    This city council to me is still a joke, they continue to worry about the small fruit while the big ticket items are ignored! I personally have never been to Flip’s in my 20 years in Wilmington, but I drive down Oleander everyday and it hasn’t even crossed my mind to it being an eyesore! Now OTOH the big billboard on college by best buy is tacky!!! The council should be looking at such issues as traffic congestion, pot holes, violence downtown, parks and greenspace, and community services just to name a few. Instead they simply annex by force, raise taxes, and all the while preach that they are giving us better services! The funny thing is I live in the county and I already have all that they offer for a reduced tax base!!!

  • Guest



  • Len Simpson

    Apparently the city of Wilmington has nothing better to do then to harass businesses that have been doing business in the area for more than 50 years.Where is the problem? The sign in question is not an eye sore nor a distraction to drivers.It does not flash,strobe,twinkle nor cause a driver to take attention from the road.
    Wilmington, find something else to focus your priorities on and keep your hands off the sign that is the advertisement to a restaurant that is the livelihood and income for the owner who pays his taxes (local and federal)for YOUR livelihood.

  • Helixx

    Maybe the city should spend less time/money and effort regulating signage on parts of the city it grabs and instead focus those resources on dealing with the crime downtown?

    Call me crazy but a sign on Oleander probably causes less negative impact to tourism and revenue to the city than muggings/stabbings/shootings/robberies downtown.

  • Guest

    I guess nobody thought to ask Bob Church why he had to take his sign down.

  • uknow

    Did Flip’s ask to be annexed by the city? (you know, to be a part of those great services only the city can provide) If he did, then the sign should go. If not, the sign should stay.

    10 year amortization. Was that for the people’s or the city’s benefit? Imagine the backlash if along with your brand new city tax bill, you also received a letter stating your property isn’t up to city code.

  • Guest

    Alright then… more details add clarity and make this a bit more of a story…. slightly. Still don’t think it’s newsworthy though!

  • Guest

    Okay Scott, I’ll accept your point. Here’s some information too; there is a pothole in the middle of Oleander Drive! I kinda doubt you will print this peice of information for those of us in the information age… both pieces of information still lack beef don’t they?

  • Scott Pickey

    Guest: Welcome to the Information Age. Our users / viewers expect us to post stories as soon as we get information – not later tonight at 500p, 600p or even 700p.

    The story says Ramon is WORKING on gathering more details – and will have MORE later today. We expect to be able to fill in those blanks as the day progresses. But as of 145p, the City Public Information Officer doesn’t even know why the sign is having to come down.

    Thanks for spending time using our site to get your local news!

    Scott Pickey
    News Director

  • Guest

    This sign is part of the history of Wilmington. Next they will be taking down the buildings and other parts of the history of the city. Why must something be 200 years old before they recognize it’s historical value?

  • Guest

    …if the BBQ were any good.

  • Guest

    Ramon – shouldn’t you add some beef to the article before posting in this manner? ie: why is the city requiring it to come dow? is it unsafe? didn’t pass an ugly test? blocking transportation visibility down the road? on somebody else’s property? etc… on the surface it is easy to cry out foul, as some have – they may be right on but without some detail behind the article – who knows? Another fine sample of WWAY professional journalism. Report it when you have details for your readers to make informed decisions / opinions.

  • Phillyguy

    By the way….here is some legal advice. If my memory serves me correct, When Flips was built, it was in the county and the city limits stopped around Hanover Center. How can the city annex and then change the rules? You should leave it up and fight it! Shadey!

  • Guestasis

    That thing at College/MLK looks like the D.O.T. dropped off a bunch of materials for an overhead road sign, and then some one slapped “Wilmington” on the pile before it could be erected.

  • Beats Me


  • Guest32569874

    I would take my sign down when they took down that awful sculpture at mlk and college. what the hell is that thing anyway?

  • Guest

    AGREED!!!! And they paid over a million dollars for that ugly thing!

  • GuestLee

    That sculpture is the worst! Most people would like to think of Wilmington as a historic city. This sculpture is too modern for a historical city like Wilmington. Take it down and leave Flip’s sign!

  • Guest

    I have been enjoying Flip’s BBQ for over 21 years! And this really gets under my skin!!! We can’t have a iconic sign in the area of Wilmington anymore it appears? Why don’t we just take down that iconic statue downtown on Market Street? You know the one that splits the road in two? Now to me that is a distraction!

  • Rich

    An iconic sign like this must come down… but new ugly billboards seem to be popping up on College Road every day. Has the whole world gone crazy?

  • Guest

    I’d like to know why this is happening? I could drive around town for an hour with my camera and easily find 20 signs that are 100x worse than this aging icon.

  • Guest461

    Thank you for a job well done to totally screw up yet another Wilmington Icon! There is absolutely no reason to force a business that has sported a sign like this for 50 years to remove it. It is not offensive in any way, it doesn’t distract drivers (like cell phones and texting) an does nothing to devalue the adjacent properties. You should have allowed Flip’s to to be granfathered from your new “sign ordinance”. The sign isn’t hurting a damned thing except your puffy chested show of power!

    This is only another example of the total ineptness, lack of community involvement and HOA mentality that YOU as city leaders consistently display.

    You REALLY should be ashamed of yourselves and embarrased to be recognized in public! Careful walking the city streets, rotten tomatoes and peaches are attracted to the likes of you!

  • Guest

    and voted for a slate of Republican candidates who are going to eviscerate the municipalities ability to do so.

  • ?

    I don’t know how WWAY could expect anyone reading this to be able to make a reasonable judgment of the city’s actions based on the information, or lack of, in this article. Did your reporter ask any questions, or are you only interested in receiving the typical I hate the government responses?


    Hey WWAY. Why can’t you be partners with the local government and stop posting stories like this that upset the citizens? It would make it so much easier on us.

  • Phillyguy

    Would have the sign been grandfathered? Ride down market st and there is alot worse. You pick on someone who was in business before you were born yet you let gangs, thugs and drugs run rampent. Its time we vote all these clowns out of office in the next election!

  • Guesthates saffo

    I agree tear it down today!!

  • Guest

    It isn’t true. There was a contest and only three groups submitted an entry. If I remember correctly the funds came from an outside source? Anyway, I know it wasn’t a million.

    I kind of like the sign — it’s definitely unique…

  • Guest

    Please tell me that is not true


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