Fish ‘n’ chip shop owner turns on neon ‘open’ sign, defying Burnside Council
Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, Nelson Mandela gave up his freedom to fight racial segregation and Peter Alevizos turned on the neon “open” sign in the front window of his fish ‘n chip shop.
Ok, so it might not go down in history as the world’s greatest act of courage, but for taking a stand against bureaucratic stupidity, Mr Alevizos should be hailed a local hero, and as he told The Eastern Courier Messenger “you’ve got to make a stand, don’t you?”
For those coming in late, here’s the chain of events that led to Mr Alevizos’ brave act of defiance.
In late 2014, the Hazelwood Park businessman went to his letterbox and retrieved a curious note from Burnside Council informing him that the flashing neon “open” sign hanging in his shop window had been displayed without council approval.
If he wanted to keep the sign up, the letter went on, he’d need to get the council’s permission and if he failed to play by the rules, he faced court action and fines up to $20,000.
This is despite the fact that the sign had been happily advertising the business FOR THE PAST 13 YEARS, presumably without blinding or maiming anyone, before the council decide ‘this simply won’t do’ and that action was required.
Boy oh boy, the wheels of justice move fast in local government!!
Almost like clockwork, Nick Xenophon, the Senator for quirky causes, was on the case and used Mr Alevizos’ situation to launch a campaign to “Stop Red Tape Madness” back in February.
The publicity worked.
Politicians vowed to clean up the law and the Local Government Act drafted new guidelines on how and when councils should use their discretion when applying planning regulations.
But the changes could be months away and ever since the storm began brewing in the teacup, Mr Alevizos’ little neon “open” sign has been hanging darkly in the window.
When the storm started brewing in the teacup he vowed to keep the sign switched off but last week he had a light globe moment and bravely decided to take a stand and turn it back on.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything from the council”.
Turning the light back on is the only sane and sensible course of action in a case that only serves to underline just how stupid and removed from the real world our councils sometimes seem to be.
This council, by the way, the one with such a bee in its bonnet over a small shop sign, is that same council that in 2012 discovered it had no powers to stop residents whacking up wind turbines in their back yards, provided the turbines were less 10m tall.
The loophole was exposed by Wattle Park man Don Evangelista, who did the right thing by applying to the council for permission to erect a 6m turbine on his property and was shocked when the council refunded his application fees and told him to go for his life.
Just don’t put a neon sign on it.
This article was first published in The City magazine and on advertiser.com.au