County, Landlord Back Off After Shop Changes Mural

by Katie Pyzyk October 3, 2012 at 3:55 pm 7,114 49 Comments

There’s a whale of a difference between the old and new murals at Smokey Shope III (554 23rd Street South) in Crystal City.

The store — which sells various types of gifts and smoking paraphernalia — had run into trouble with the county over a mural on the side of the building depicting a man smoking a cigar. The painting was viewed as an advertisement for products inside, thus constituting an illegal sign.

To remedy the situation, owner Atta Amin arranged for the cigar portion of the mural to be painted over, replacing it with a whale. He said the colorful, billowing cigar smoke just happens to look similar to the waves of the ocean.

The change satisfied the county’s zoning office, and it also smoothed over things with Amin’s landlord, who at first objected to the mural. According to Amin, the building owner has allowed him to keep the mural up through the end of his lease. He’s currently four months into the five year lease.

Since the whale first appeared last month, Amin said he’s received no complaints about the mural from neighbors or customers.

“Hopefully people will be happy with it,” he said.

Amin said he spent a considerable amount of money to fix up the inside of the once-vacant building, located along the 23rd Street strip of restaurants and small shops. With the mural troubles out of the way, he’s now focused on attracting more customers.

“So far business is okay. Hopefully we can get the upper hand and see the hard work paid off,” Amin said. “Time is on our side.”

  • Dave

    Cooler “heads” prevail.

    • Clarendon bud

      The guys at the shop are awesome. Purchased a bowl and a new vaporizer there last week.

  • Id

    Smoke Whale . . .

  • Dezlboy

    Looks like a fancy crack pipe. I’d rather the mural substituted a cute beagle blowing smoke out of this ears. Oh…nevermind, wrong mural. 🙂

    • Dave

      Actually, a glass piece in the form of a whale would be pretty sweet.

  • arlcyclist

    Based on all the “waves” that must have been a whale of a hit.

  • G Clifford Prout (now moderated for extra purity)

    If only all problems were so easy to fix.

  • I’m confused. Isn’t this mural just like the dog shop’s mural in Shirlington? Changing the cigar for a whale does not really change much. Who holds a whale like a cigar? This just looks like a mural where a cigar was covered by a mural.

    Does this mean that if the owner of the dog shop had put mustaches and hats on her dogs and made them look like people, she could have kept the mural??


    • novasteve

      WHALE + POT = Feel good moment for hippies like the board.

      Don’t question it.

    • Dezlboy

      The owner of the dog mural needed to paint whales over the dogs. (Actually, the owner refused to make any changes. So I don’t recall if a compromise was offered.)

      • PikeMan

        Arlington offered a compromise to the dog shop to add the words “Welcome to the Shirlington Dog Park” or something similar – the owner refused and instead decided to pursue an seriously flawed first amendment lawsuit instead.

        Kinda silly, she could have kept the original mural with the dogs from her logo that way – which seems like a more than reasonable compromise since she pretty much admitted in the court docs that she put the mural up to attract potential customers.

    • fourmilerunner

      The mural in Shirlington would have been fine if there were cats instead of dogs. Or cats wearing dog masks.

      • Arlington cat

        Unless the proposed mural showed cats inside a cramped Arlington townhome or apartment, the AWLA would have objected.

        • pup

          I would LOVE to know why you hate our AWLA. They do GREAT things there!! The flaws I see are in their volunteer program… VOLUNTEERS SHOULD NOT BE ANSWERING THE PHONES OR GIVING ADVISE but the staff is great and they really go above and beyond for the animals in their care. I adopted a cat that went through about a month of monitoring because the previous owner said the cat did not use the litter box. AWLA monitored the cat, did urine testing and started the cat on a proper diet for a healthy life. I love my cat! Anywhere else my poor kitty wouldn’t have had a chance! YEAH AWLA!!!!

          • Arlington cat

            AWLA misinforms the public on purpose. Any domestic animal outside is considered by them a “stray,” including a GPS equipped, collared, tagged, trained hunting dog doing his job in central Virginia, or an 18 year old cat on his front lawn. They also instruct the public through their press releases to approach and capture strange dogs and take them to the AWLA. Approaching strange dogs without training and the proper tools is dangerous, but they don’t care.

            Any eight year old that has visited Long Branch Nature Center knows snakes are venomous not poisonous. The AWLA claims snakes can be “poisonous.” They donot educate, they misinform.

          • Lauren

            Yeah, you’re just wrong.

            Let’s just start with your GPS equipped part. AWLA is not concerned with a hunting dog in Central Virginia. If the dog appears in Arlington, lost from the hunting pack, then by all accounts, it is a stray dog. Common sense.

            And they absolutely do not “instruct” people to approach and capture stray dogs. I personally have called numerous times over the years to report a loose dog running down a busy street, or by itself in a median strip, etc., and they ask if I am able to catch it to keep it safe without putting me in harms way, but they don’t ask me to their job.

            As for the venom vs poison issue – perhaps it just takes a quick note to the staff to tell them that the person or company they hired to write the information for the website should change the term. I am sure it is not the first time a copy editor has made a change (or missed a detail) in marketing or educational material….

            If you have such a huge problem with the way things are done, why don’t you volunteer and help them fix it?

      • Bacon

        Don’t let your cat go outside and enjoy the sunshine, or the AWLA will pick it up and destroy you. They want cats fat and cooped up.

        • fatcat

          AWLA told me they wouldn’t pick up the cat in my neighborhood

      • Id

        Save cows . . .eat more cats. . .

    • drax

      Yes. If she had changed the dogs to little guys with mustaches, or whales, it would have probably been fine.

    • internet tourettes

      Just saying; It would have been ok if the dogs were playing poker…

  • nom de guerre

    I don’t mean to stir things up, but the whale depicted in the mural looks like a pilot whale which is also know as a pothead whale. Doesn’t this make the mural a sign since the store is a head shop?

    • SomeGuy

      Head shop. If only that were what’s really on offer there, Clarendon Skank might be able to pick up a side… job.

    • drax

      Wait till you see my huge mural of a sperm whale. 😉

      • WeiQiang

        Because of the whale or what it’s painted on?

      • Id

        Where a condom when you paint it to be safe.

  • headpot

    Save the Bales!

  • The Gov..

    It’s 4:20.. Time to leave this joint..

  • South Awwlington

    Cool. Glad to see we backed off.

  • WeiQiang

    I walked by there last night. The mural is the classiest thing on the building. They’ve added more mural to the facade of the brick building, to the right of that pictured above. Even better, they have a red LED light strip across the top of the building. Keepin’ it classy, Mr. Amin.

    It makes Freddie’s purple paint, pink flamingoes and rainbow flags look quaint.

    All in all, I like ‘Blunty The Magic Whale’.

  • StrawberryCough

    At least he didn’t light the wrong end of the whale like with the cigar.

    • drax

      Thanks – next time I smoke a whale, I now know which end.

  • Bad Apple

    Pure farce.

  • novasteve

    Is that supposed to be Jimmy Stewart in the mural?

    • Dezlboy

      Edgar G. Robinson.

      • jackson

        Edward G. Robinson

        • WeiQiang

          Vivian: So, what’s your name?

          Edward Lewis: Edward.

          Vivian: Really? That’s my favorite name in the whole world.

  • so much for free speech.

  • DynaFlash 8

    In lieu of a whale, how about a copy of a County Property Tax bill?

    We’d all love to burn that.

  • Rosslyner

    I think the Japanese and Norwegians still smoke whale. Great on crackers.

  • MaydayMalone

    I don’t know – that whale looks pretty baked.

  • JimPB

    As we know from Jonah’s tale (as portrayed by Walt Disney Productions), whales can intake quite a bit, and of course all that that comes in has to go out, including the smoke from Jonah’s fire in the belly of the whale.

    So, is the touched up mural straying into some religious story trouble zone?

    • Arlington cat

      Actually, a whale’s throat can not swallow anything larger than a softball. Jonah was swallowed by a whale of a time, meaning he was drunk .

      • drax

        Or high.

  • Clarendon

    Inhale…the whale.

  • bman

    great photos…

    to download, in firefox,

    right click outside the image

    click on “view page info”

    then goto media tab

    then goto about 4 images up. then save as.

    • Gnome Da Ploom

      …or just right click on the image and choose “save as”

      • bman

        i’m not sure what browser you are using? but no such option!
        (and i’m not talking about the small 300×200 images).

  • Arlingtonian

    Get rid of the place. It sells harmful tobacco products. Anything else that it sells is probably also bad for your health,


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