Despite removing sign, Flip’s owner still feuding with city

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Submitted: Thu, 10/04/2012 - 9:00pm
Updated: Fri, 10/05/2012 - 12:36pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Less than a week after Flip’s Bar-B-Que took down its half-century-old sign to comply with a city ordinance, the small business is facing another issue with the city.

“On Tuesday, I get a call from the Zoning Department asking me if I had a permit to take my sign down,” said Flip’s Bar-B-Que owner Bob Church.

Church says a city code enforcement officer told him he needed clearance to remove the sign. Church says he’s confused.

“I had to pay to have the sign taken down, and they made me take the sign down, so therefore I don’t know where they’re coming from,” Church said.

Church says he cannot believe the city is finding another reason to penalize his small business.

“The amount of stress I’ve been under for the last two weeks has been crazy,” he said. “Like the president said last night (and) Gov. Romney: small businesses need to get the country going, and here they are beating the daylights out of us trying to ruin us, and I don’t understand that. What’s going on?”

We spoke with the company that removed the sign Friday. A representative said he has taken down many signs because of the ordinance and has never heard of having to have a permit to do the work.

We tried to contact the code enforcement officer and other representatives with the city, but they have not called us back with any answers.

Last week more than 1,000 people voted in an unscientific online poll on our website. Ninety-one percent of them said Flip’s should not have had to take down its sign.


  • Guest09876 says:

    According to their ordinances – – Do a search for 18-50

    A building permit is required for “The installation, alteration or repair of any sign”. Technically, you need a permit even to replace a light bulb in a sign. The fact that the sign company has no idea of this means it’s not typically enforced. The code enforcement guy is playing hardball with this guy because he missed a protection payment or something.

    The sign ordinance:

  • Guest211 says:


  • Wilmington Observer says:

    Unfortunately, the politicians in Raleigh made this practice legal in August of 2011. The N.C. General Assembly enacted into law Senate Bill 315, which permits placement of campaign signs on the rights-of-way of state-maintained roads even if those roads are in towns with sign ordinances that would prohibit, or control size or placement of the signs.

    Wilmington Observer

  • Wilmington Observer says:

    Did WWAY do their due diligence by visiting the Zoning Department and ask if they, actually, made contact with Mr. Church regarding a “Sign Removal Permit” or did they just report what Mr. Church told them?

    Wilmington Observer

  • Thomas says:

    I agree with that. If you don’t like the way things are done down here, don’t move here. We seem to be having the same problem in Carteret County. It is surprising that the boards of the towns, cities and counties seem to think the people here don’t know what is needed. They need leaders in those positions not planners. And why wasn’t that sign ‘Grandfathered’? If it hasn’t been destroyed maybe it can be put back as a historical thing.

  • STAR says:

    City of Wilmington get a grip….and fix 3rd street

  • OtherGuest says:

    Maybe the city figured it could use the permit fee or fine to make up for the amount forgiven on Mr. Berger’s debt.

  • Malkiel_kol_hakavod_la_el says:

    I am a former northerner been in our great State 6 years… Just so ya know most of us hate this type of crap thus why we left the north….

  • Phillyguy says:

    What these numbskulls seem to forget is that when flips put up the sign in the 60’s it was not in or near the city limits of Wilmington. I think the line was either at College Road or Near Hanover Center. Flips was out in the country on the beach road. He should have been grandfathered in. Why is our city becoming so petty. Don’t Saffo and the other morons running the city have anything better to do than trying to stick it to the little guy.

  • captsundrop says:

    to mays laws ……no one knows how to enforce them……hahahhah @ county govt.

  • roger reed says:

    seriously, leave him alone. that’s absolutely ridiculous. you forced the man to take down a sign that was there before the city. how are business supposed to make money for the city to tax if they keep running them out of business. counter productive.

  • B M says:

    People until the state of NC overcomes 140 plus years of Democratic control nobody is safe from the heavy hand of big brother, as long as you want to live under Saffo, McIntyre, Perdue,Obama dictated lifestyles a small business owners sign is the least of our concerns, yet it is probably one of the biggest deterrents to how we really want to live our lives, dang I sure like good bbq!

  • Guest 2012 says:

    This is a classic example of what is wrong with our society. The problem extends from local government to the highest federal branches. Its called
    Common Sense!!! Lack of it is contagious.P

  • RSimmons says:

    Code enforcement doesn’t call you by phone to inform you of a violation. They show up in person first and formally cite you in writing either on the spot or by mail. I suspect that Bob may not be the sharpest tool in the shed.

  • Guest1 says:

    I thank god I dont live in wilmington, what a frigging JOKE. I would be ashamed to tell anyone I resided in that pathetic excuse for a town…….and crap like this is why.

  • Truthseeker says:

    This is just another example of Saffo’s City government employees run amok. These idiots need to leave the man alone. His sign was bothering no one but some incompetent moronic city employee. Yea build a 60 million dollar stadium at taxpayer’s expense then run a man out of business. Elections not far off and you bungling politicians are going to pay!

  • Ehawk says:

    This is your glorious city government at work. Everyone complains but then they don’t show up at the polls to vote these bums out. There is not a single member of the Wilmington city government who deserves to be re-elected. Wake up and vote these bums out! They are killing us and robbing us blind with their corruption, over taxation, and over regulation.

  • guesty says:

    Why would the city care about a county commissioners debt?

  • jj says:

    The Sign has been up longer that the council members have lived in the area. It should have been Grandfather in and that should be the end of it.

    The City told him to take it down. That was his permit right there… Case closed.

    Now the real issue why isn’t the code enforcer doing something about all the political signs that are on the road right away that is against the code? Clean that up and you might have a case. If it was me I would take some pictures along the road and sue the Sh-T out of the city for selective prosecution and harassment. When he does I hope I can sit on the jury…

  • Glad I'm not you says:

    Wow, thats a bit much. Doesn’t that take some efort on your part? How much effort have you invested in your community? I am betting none.

  • Guester says:

    What would a city fee have to do with a county commissioner’s debt?

  • GuestPointy says:

    Brilliant comment. Except for one thing….this is in the city of Wilmington, not the county.

    hahahaha @ captsundrop

  • Wilmington Observer says:

    Whereas I think that it was disgraceful for the owner to be told that he had to have a permit to remove a sign that he was ordered to remove, I find it, equally, disgraceful to suggest that a bribe (or lack thereof) was involved. That is, unless, you have proof of such practices here, in Wilmington.

    Wilmington Observer

  • John Henry says:

    I think I might go around town and take some COW signs Today and btw if you “work” for city code enforcement, I hate you.

  • Guest55 says:

    Mr. Berger is a New Hanover County Commissioner.

    This code enforcement matter is between Flips and the City of Wilmington.

    These are 2 different jurisdictions.

  • Guest2369 says:

    Im getting tired of all these northerners moving down here and getting city jobs like planners and code enforcement jobs and bringing their yankee laws with them. They make work there, but not here where we use common sense. I would like to see what damage the sign has caused the citizens of wilmington. Was it really a public safety issue? Or a way for the town to get a little extra cash?

  • Guest 10101 says:

    Every time anything goes wrong here someone like you crawls out from under a rock and blames it on someone from the North.

    – If ALL of “those” people are getting the planning and enforcement jobs … PROVE IT!
    – If Wilmington’s laws are actually “Yankee laws” brought to Wilmington from elsewhere … PROVE IT!

    You can’t, because that just doesn’t even begin to make any sense at all much less involve the common sense you say is what works instead of law here (which also makes no sense).

    About the only thing that’s making any sense at all is that Wilmington, just like any other town in America, has some some problems that you, personally, have no idea on how to fix. Instead of putting on a pair of big-boy pants and looking for a local solution to a local problem, your solution is to blame someone from somewhere else. Gee, that’ll sure fix the problem.

    Too bad you’ll never be smart enough to realize that your infantile response to a LOCAL problem makes everyone HERE look worse instead of better.

    Considering what you’ve posted, I find your astounding lack of any common sense at all to be totally ironic.

  • Guest211 says:


  • GuestDeanna says:

    Location, Location. The Trader Joe’s location sucks

  • ChefnSurf says:

    … but “code enforcement officer and other representatives with the city, … have not called … back with any answers.”

    I suppose that’s Mr. Church’s fault as well?

  • Guest11221 says:

    If Mr. Church spent as much time making a decent BBQ Platter as he does seeking attention, his parking lot would not have been empty everyday for the last several years. There has to be more to this story. I would like to hear what zoning/code enforcement have to say.

  • Sreen Name says:

    Gee Mr. Wizard, If Flips doesn’t know how to “make a decent barbeque plate” then please explain to the class how have they stayed in business for the past 50 years.

    And I’m sure the class would be further enlightened if you explained why you expect Flip’s parking lot to be full “for the last several years” in the midst of the worst recession since the Carter daze.

    One last question Mr. Wizard, do you work for big gubment, a barbeque competitor of Flips, Peta or are you just a cynical hater of small business?

  • Guestarticulatore says:

    The sheriff, district attorney and judges are subject to election. Why aren’t city and county managers subject to election too???

  • guesty says:

    The city manager doesn’t care how the departments are run. I know of a guy that worked as an auxiliary officer for WPD and he got shafted by a lieutenant. She lied and got him fired. He went to cheatham to tell him about his dealings with both WPD and city human resources and ethical issues. All cheatham could say was: “I don’t know what you expect me to do?”

    He doesn’t care.

  • Paul says:

    This is crazy and maddening. City officials are just begging for more criticism.

  • Das Weibstück says:

    The city of Wilmington needs fixing! Flip them off Mr. Church.

  • guesty says:

    The city made him remove the sign, got what they wanted and now they are saying he didn’t get a permit?

    Give it a rest and go micro-manage something else. I think there may be a downtown store with too much window coverage.

  • Guest28403 says:

    If the sign person says he’s never needed a permit Id guess he would know better then some paperpusher from downtown. Then again maybe the City decided it can raise money for that ballpark its determined to build by nickel and diming every bloody small business within the city limits to death to get that money for Saffo and his buddies

  • Sophie Johnson says:

    It’s not Saffo we need to blame! It’s the beaurocrats who are constantly trying to justify their positions (and protect their bloated salaries)!!! Maybe the City Manager needs to get involved along with the County to get “rid” of some of these ridiculous mandates. Flip’s is not just a small business–it is a survivor trying to make it in an economy that is upside down. It is also an INSTITUTION. Remember this when you go to the polls. It’s our last resort…

  • jimtklahican says:

    I do believe I would call the Mayor and tell him to get bent.

  • Small Business Myself says:

    Sorry Flip’s ..I have to admit I was driving by your place the other day and wanted to stop and get something to eat. I totally wiffed on by because I did not see your sign…and before I know it I am half way up the road. Such a moronic move by the city to be so half cocked.

    Now up the road we got another issue when the stupid Trader Joes goes live. I predict accidents galore and maybe a few pedestrian deaths before the year is out. Who is the brilliant govt official that ok’d that project.

  • Myself says:

    Flips sucks, Trader Joes is great!
    That is all.

  • 3293 says:

    Where has this Code Enforcement Officer and the City of Wilmington been for the last month during the publicity of this sign having to be taken down?

    Between Berger and the lack of care regarding the issues with the bridge over the past week-end (and I could on and on), I think you should wake up. I mean really….how much worse do you want to make yourself look?

  • Juan Valdez says:

    And we wonder why the economy is in the tank….Government Government Government

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