Sandwich Board Signs, Sidewalk Cafe Umbrellas Making a Comeback?

At the annual State of the County address yesterday, Arlington County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said action on parts of his Small Business Initiative is coming soon.

Zimmerman said that he expects to see an initial draft of a rewritten sign ordinance next month, with final Board approval by the end of the year.

Addressing the substance of the sign ordinance, Zimmerman said he wants an ordinance that “at a minimum, ends the prohibition on A-frame signs [and] relaxes restrictions on the umbrellas used for sidewalk seating.”

Allowing A-frame — or “sandwich board” –signs would be a victory for business owners in Arlington, who have bemoaned Arlington’s strict enforcement of its prohibitive sign ordinance. The ban on sandwich board signs in makes it particularly difficult to promote restaurants specials and store sales to passersby.

Unadorned sidewalk cafe umbrellas are currently allowed under county code, but allowing branded umbrellas would benefit restaurant owners who want to make their eateries more visible during the warm weather months.

In addition to sign ordinance changes, Zimmerman said he hopes the Small Business Initiative will find a way to improve coordination among the various county government units that handle business matters.

“We heard, again and again, a real frustration with the lack of centrality and consistency of information,” Zimmerman said.

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