TAMPA (CN) – The City of Clearwater can’t tell the Quinteros what’s art and what ain’t, the owners of The Complete Angler say in Federal Court. The Quinteros say they paid an artist to paint a “marine-themed mural” on the wall of their shop, which the city says is not art – it’s a sign – and fined them hundreds of dollars for it. And the city threatened to fine them again on President’s Day.
“The City of Clearwater, Florida exempts ‘art work’ from its permitting requirement, but through its Development Code, endows itself with absolute discretion to determine precisely what constitutes art,” the Quinteros say. “the City determined that The Complete Angler’s marine-themed mural painting of game fish and other sea life is not art work, and previously fined the bait shop’s owner, Heriberto Quintero, hundreds of dollars for violations of the city’s signage ordinance.”
But wait, it gets better: “In an act of political protest, and to cover the ‘offending’ art work, The Complete Angler draped the mural with a banner of the First Amendment. Over Presidents’ Day weekend, on Feb. 14, 2009, Herb and Lorraine Quintero received a Notice of Violation that cited The Complete Angler for both the First Amendment banner and the ‘attached’ sign, i.e., the art work. The Complete Angler and its owners now sue the city for violation of their First Amendment rights. Plaintiffs contemporaneously move for an emergency temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to preclude the city from instituting enforcement proceedings of its unconstitutional ordinance. Plaintiffs seek this relief as to both the First Amendment banner and the art work.”
The Quinteros are represented by Maria Kayanan with the ACLU in Miami.