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Newbury Street Sandwich Boards Part 1: Knee Injuries and Completely Illegal

“They’re dangerous, they’re a public safety hazard, and there’s too many people on Newbury Street for them."

Back Bay resident Alan Williams was distracted by a nice looking Ferrari when he tripped over the sandwich board advertising for at 279 Newbury Street.

“I was looking across the street, and I walked into one and did a tumble,” Williams said. He had a pretty decent fall, and got a road rash on his knee.

Glancing up and down the block, the Kashmir board was he could have fallen over. Signs big and small - some out on the sidewalk, some pushed in closer to the shops – are a staple along the busy, pedestrian-heavy artery.

“They’re dangerous, they’re a public safety hazard, and there’s too many people on Newbury Street for them,” Williams said.

Indeed, “They’re totally illegal, all of them that you see,” said Michele Messino, executive director of the business organization. “But they’re definitely needed. The clients need some kind of signs out there to draw businesses from the street.”

Just recently, the League started working with the city’s Back Bay Architectural Commission to establish regulations for the signs. 

“We’re very early on in the process, but working toward a goal that will improve the look of the street and prevent any safety issues in the future,” Messino said.

In the meantime, Boston’s Code Enforcement department was alerted to the problem, and soon after Memorial Day officers paid a visit to a few businesses.

A violation ranges from $50 - $300, but they didn’t hand out any tickets because none of the signs were on the sidewalk.

“The signs were back on private property,” said Chief Michael Mackan. Plus, “When we have the ability to speak to and educate someone, we do that first,” he added.

They’re still supposed to have permits, but that’s handled by the Inspectional Services department – which did go through and confiscate signs from a number of businesses back in 2006.

“There are so many issues relative to these things,” Messino said.

Check back tomorrow morning for Part 2 of the series.

Corinne Zaczek June 14, 2011 at 02:54 PM
I have two reasons for wanting to rid Newbury Street of the sidewalk signs. One being that they take up a big portion of the sidewalk and make an already narrow area much harder to navigate. The second reason is that the stores that are below are blocked by other's signs. For example, walk to Bauer Wine & Spirits and notice that the American Apparel sign completely blocks the storefront for Bauer. This happens up and down all of Newbury. I disagree with Michele Messino from the Newbury Street League who says that they are necessary. If all storefronts have signage in their windows and doors then the sidewalk signs are superfluous.
Gerald Kindness June 15, 2011 at 12:09 PM
Free exposure to illegal signers . Annoniminity to law abiders. Nice job Patch. why did you delete my last comment?
Gerald Kindness June 15, 2011 at 12:14 PM
Sinage is exposure, this article is providing free exposure to all those with illegal signs, and ignoring those of us who obey the law and remain unnoticed. At least by Patch.
Brittany June 15, 2011 at 02:01 PM
I do agree that sandwich boards are a very important part of helping businesses expose their store, services, and products to customers walking by. I think they are a wonderful marketing tool and should be allowed. However, respectfully I do believe that all stores should follow the same rules. If sandwich boards are only allowed on private property than all the stores that are breking the law by putting them in the middle of the sidewalk should be fined. I am overly cautious as to where we put our sandwich board and never block the sidewalk or the other businesses around me. I am lucky because of the store-front set up I have. I understand that some stores don't have the space for sandwich boards on their private property but that is not an excuse to just ignore the laws that have been put in place.

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