Minnesota city draws line on coffee shop’s sidewalk chalk signs
A tempest in a coffee cup: That’s what Stillwater is facing.
An anonymous complaint about the Daily Grind Espresso Cafe’s sidewalk chalk art in downtown Stillwater led to a visit Wednesday from a police officer, who told owners Tim and Megan Palm that they could no longer advertise their business that way.
Tim Palm has been drawing elaborate coffee cups, smoothies, arrows and the words "Daily Grind Espresso Cafe" with colorful chalk on Main Street since the couple bought the business in 2004. The shop is tucked into the back of the building at 317 S. Main St. -- on the St. Croix River side -- and it’s difficult to see from Main Street, Megan Palm said.
"We see a huge change in our business when he does it," Megan Palm said of her husband’s artworks.
"It’s hundreds of dollars. We’ve tried sandwich boards and signs, but they always get busted. This is kind of our way of doing something creative every day that gets washed off in the rain."
After the police visit, Megan Palm took to Facebook and asked Daily Grind customers "to spread the word of where we are located this summer. It’s hard being in the back of the building, and this was our way of directing people to our door."
The response was immediate; dozens of customers stopped by or commented, and one started a Facebook page called "United Against Stillwater’s Ban on Business Use of Sidewalk Chalk."
"I woke up this morning, and I was, like, ’Holy cow,’ " Megan Palm said Thursday.
City Planner Abbi Whitman said the enforcement action against the Daily Grind was in response to a complaint.
Since the chalk art included the Daily Grind’s business name, it is considered "off-site signage ... which is prohibited in all zoning districts" per city ordinance, Whitman said.
Whitman said the Daily Grind would be allowed to draw pictures of coffee cups and smoothies and arrows in sidewalk chalk -- as long as they didn’t use the business name.
That sounded good to Megan Palm.
"The city has been awesome about this," she said. "I don’t want this to be a big deal. I don’t want the city to be hampered by it. I don’t like bad publicity about Stillwater."