Guest column: South Lake Tahoe should change sandwich board policy (opinion)
Owning a small business in South Lake Tahoe is no easy feat. It’s particularly difficult when you are a relatively new business and are still trying to establish a name for yourself.
Last summer, the first summer The Bar, a fitness studio, was in its location on Lake Tahoe Boulevard, Caltrans implemented the beginnings of construction concerning the sidewalk running the length of the city.
While the sidewalk is and will continue to be a huge improvement in terms of “sidewalk appeal” and various healthy forms of transportation whether by foot, by bike or by the roaringly popular motorized scooters, there is no doubt about it: the construction is negatively affecting business for not only small businesses, but for large businesses alike.
Thus, last summer I went out and purchased a sandwich board sign to hopefully allow the passing cars to see that not only was I open, but that I existed in the first place. Unfortunately, the driveway to the Tahoe Keys Center was blocked for much of the summer due to the construction, and I found my business dwindling.
But this summer I was determined to keep class sizes up and rapport strong for my clients, instructors and my wallet. My sandwich board went out as soon as the snow melted, and the studio has been slammed all summer long.
Consequently, when I received information from my property management company that the owner of my building had received a violation letter from the city regarding my sandwich board sign, I was awestruck. Did you know that sandwich board signs are only allowed from Friday at 8 a.m. through Sunday at 5 p.m. according to Chapter 6.40.080 in South Lake Tahoe City Code? Well, it’s true.
I get it. The city is being nice so that businesses can appeal to tourists. But, am I the only one who has noticed that tourists are here EVERY day of the week? Additionally, what about the businesses who are trying to appeal to locals rather than tourists, as I am? What of them?
Not to mention, sandwich board signs have a very short life span here in South Lake due to the weather. If I’m lucky, I can have a sandwich board sign out from May through September. The remainder of the months, my “signage area” is covered in several feet of snow. Therefore, I have an extremely short span of time in which to advertise my business through the use of my sandwich board, and now, based on the policy that I was uninformed of until recently (while I read a lot, city policy has never been my go-to), I can use my sign less than 50 percent of each month for less than 50 percent of the year.
What irks me the most is that someone who works for the city is paid to keep tabs on our sandwich sign usage. Albeit, he or she must not be that great at keeping tabs as I’ve had my sign out everyday since mid-May and I was just given news of my citation in early August. If I am cited again, I will be fined … and I’m sure the cost will be more than “peanuts” or “chump change.”
I was born and raised here. I moved back to Tahoe to build a life here, and I work hard every single day to make that a reality. To survive. To have my small business survive. To have the city against me, which is the way I see it, seems to be an infringement of my rights.
I am not free to advertise at my liberty to the public of South Lake Tahoe through the use of a sandwich board.
So, let me ask the public: Does the refusal of sandwich board signs Sunday evening through Friday morning make Tahoe a better place?
Robyn Lindner is a South Lake Tahoe resident and owner of The Bar.