The dispute led to protests July 17 and Thursday, organized by McHenry County Republican Party Secretary Karen Tirio, who heard about the situation from a Facebook friend. Gianelli’s manager Terry Trobiani said the village unfairly ticketed the restaurant for having American flags outside of the establishment. But village officials said the issue is Trobiani’s placement of the flags on the Route 176 right-of-way, not the flag itself.
But the version of events Trobiani has publicized is a distorted version of what happened, the village said in an almost three-page news release published to its website.
“To me, (the flag is) honoring your veterans and all the people who fought for the very right to fly our flag,” Tirio said.
“Trobiani has misled both the press and the public into thinking that the village of Prairie Grove cited him simply for flying a U.S. flag, when in fact manager Trobiani’s actions were very clearly intended to taunt the village and stoke a fire under the guise of civil liberties,” the village statement reads.
A ban on temporary signs
Trobiani has been fighting the village’s temporary sign ordinance — which prohibits high visibility signage, including A-frames, banners and feather flags — for years, criticizing it as unfriendly to business.
“The village of Prairie Grove is a predominantly residential community with high aesthetic standards, including reasonable regulations of temporary signage,” the village said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the village lifted its temporary sign ban as a way of helping businesses, but it quickly reinstated the rule after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced at the beginning of June that Illinois would move to Phase 5 of its reopening plan, meaning an end to most COVID-19 restrictions.
Village President David Underwood signed an executive order June 8 rescinding the suspension of the temporary sign ban, something he said was always the plan.
As a business, Gianelli’s needs time to recover after the pandemic, especially as customers still are unsure about whether they can eat indoors despite the state being reopened, Trobiani said. A sign could help Gianelli’s, 3111 Route 176, advertise its indoor dining, he said.
“Where’s our recovery period? Do (you) not allow businesses a time to recover? Is it like a water spigot? OK, business off, business on?” Trobiani said in an interview.
“They were definitely aware,” he said. “The village has had years and years of compliance issues in regards to signage issue at Gianelli’s.”
Emails were sent and phone calls were made to Gianelli’s letting its owners know about the return of the prohibition of temporary signage, Underwood said.
Trobiani said that after the temporary sign ban was put back into place, he decided to “be a little political” and ask the village for one 24-by-36-inch A-frame sign instead of the three signs he originally wanted as a compromise.
Businesses are allowed to display temporary signs if they get a variance from the village. To obtain one, business owners have to apply and then go before the village board during a meeting for its approval.
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