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Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: Nobody doesn’t like the Johnny’s Saloon sign just northeast of Beach and Slater, the one that reads “Thank A Veteran For Your Freedom.” Nobody in Huntington Beach wants to see the sign, which has been there for over a decade, taken down. Even with its little shout-out to the tiny minority of people who still think we have POW’s in Vietnam, there are no Democrats or Republicans, independents or apolitical folks in Surf City that don’t like the sign or agree with its message.
Well, nobody except some anonymous tipster who reported it to code enforcement on Thanksgiving Monday, requiring a city employee to leave a note later that day on the saloon door.
Right away, we have different versions of what that notice said: The City claims it “asked for the owner to contact the City to discuss the sign and any building and electrical permits that were issued, indicated a violation for having the sign… and requested that the owner contact the City to discuss options for permitting the sign.” But according to Johnny (there are two Johnnys but the more loquacious seems to be Johnny Kresimir) it was a simple demand to either remove the sign within two days or pay a $960 fine. Johnny’s pissed at the City’s watered-down description of the notice, and has threatened to post the notice up on “social media” i.e. his very lively Facebook page. But since he hasn’t followed through with that as far as I can tell, I suspect he read the notice hastily and over-reacted.
That over-reaction naturally included running to FOX News, who immediately smelled that day’s big right-wing faux-outrage – they require five a week! – liberal beach-city bureaucrats in a war against veterans! The FOX story was out by Tuesday, just in time for heated discussions over Thanksgiving dinner! “OUTRAGEOUS!” screamed the headline at FoxNewsInsider. A petition was launched, and the deluge of hate mail and phone calls poured in from across the county, to our Mayor and innocent City staff. (They tell me it’s started to calm down now, and would prefer I didn’t write about this, but … I guess that’s what I do, stir the pot one more time, when I think good people have undeservedly taken on a ration of shit.)
Our hot-headed Assemblyman Travis Allen even jumped on the issue a week late with a breathless Dec 2 press release, claiming for some reason that the sign would be taken down the NEXT DAY (Dec 3?) when in fact Johnny was actually already in negotiations with the city. The sign isn’t coming down, everyone supports it, Johnny has 90 days (till late February) to make sure it’s up to code, which it probably already is, and has a permit on file, which it should have but never did. And, apparently having calmed down a bit, he is ON it.
The fact is, after receiving the anonymous tip, Huntington Beach’s code enforcement legally had no choice but to look into it and make sure the sign was permitted and up to code, which is all they’re doing – otherwise THE CITY would be held responsible in the small chance anything bad happened with it – say, an electrical fire. But Johnny has publicly cast doubt on there even having BEEN an anonymous tipster, opining darkly several times that “something fishy is going on.” In Johnny’s paranoid telling, the City REALLY WANTED to take his sign down and it was only the bad publicity that saved the day! Aw, come on, what is he suggesting – if not that HB politicians want the sign down because they hate veterans. What do YOU think is the most likely scenario here?
Connie Boardman, who was the Mayor up until a couple Mondays ago, when the traditional rotation passed our Mayorship over to gleamy-eyed Repuglican Matt Harper, has taken the lion’s share of abuse during the two-week kerfuffle, getting called “vermin,” a “Communist,” and a “gimmiecrap” (apparently some Louisianan’s version of “Democrat.”) City receptionists and administrative aides also had to put up with a lot of cussing and yelling from all across our great nation, even though neither they nor Connie had anything to do with this situation.
Yes, once the nation’s right-wingers discovered that our Mayor was a Democrat, it all made sense to them – of course Democrats hate our veterans! Which is a ridiculous and false stereotype – even though we Democrats don’t automatically “SPORT WOOD“ every time our leaders drag us off to War, we are the best when it comes to making sure our returning heroes are taken care of and get the services they need. Mayor Boardman (famed warrior for our Fire Pits and AGAINST 405 toll lanes and Poseidon) is in fact the widow of an Army vet – something I haven’t seen mentioned in the press yet – and under her Mayorship (as under all HB Mayors) the city has done a LOT to support veterans – too much to bother listing here.
And so has Johnny’s Saloon, I hasten to add – they do much more than just keep a sign up, with their frequent fundraisers for veterans’ children, and their recently co-sponsoring a 5k that raised funds for our town’s 3/1 Marines at Camp Pendleton. But with their fanning of this non-controversy they brought this city much opprobrium and discord, and themselves much fame, publicity, and untold support.
Oh well, with that faux outrage out of the way, I guess it’s back to our regularly scheduled War on Christmas!
UPDATE SATURDAY MORNING
Johnny Kresimir responds:
Hi guys… Johnny here… My cel 7145801002 if you ever want to meet for a chat. I would like to mention a few things about the article. The reason I did not post a pic of the notice was bc I thought posting the violation would only get people more upset. I did not over react. It was a simple “remove or be fined” violation as I stated. The city press releases had false information & were changed. Vern, the quote in your article was eventually retracted.
I personally do NOT want the media attention. But if not for the media attention by now I would have been fined $1,000′s so I focused the media attention on the fact that my customers, the community and most importantly the Veterans wanted the sign to stay. Was that wrong? I NEVER promoted any negative behavior towards anyone. The first news van to show up was Channel 2 (We did NOT contact them). As you can see by the footage I did not show up on purpose.
I advertised for Veterans to show up and tell the news how important the sign was to them & to not bash anyone, stay positive. When FOX hit us up, instead of myself going on National news, I again asked Veterans to go on. One of which runs Vision2Victory Combat Veterans Charity & helped me put on The Surf City Veterans Day Car Show here in HB last month. The other Veteran being an employee of mine that knows first hand what we do and what the sign means. He also trains dogs that we rescue & donate to Veterans. I asked them to keep it positive & they did. Very easily I could have put myself on the news many times. Our Social Media and News responses were all advertising for people to voice if they want the sign to stay and to do so in a positive manner. Their efforts landed us the 90 day extension.
I pulled the only necessary permits in 2003 when I purchased the business and changed the old businesses name. I was a little kid when the permits for the sign structure were pulled so I would not have those in my possession and again was never asked for them. Any and all contact I had with the city staff in the 1st week was that “the sign needed to come down”. SO we stayed the positive social media course.
In just the couple weeks before the violation we had raised over $3,000 for 2 combat Veterans. One in an accident and burned over 40% of his body. The other we paid for his infants surgery. For anyone to accuse us of using the media attention for financial gain is ridiculous and proves they are not familiar with our business.
And to your statement Vern about me being paranoid… After 17 years in business & my experiences… That is one thing you got right. After you receive the notice I received and you have the conversations I have had with those involved you are left shocked and worried about the future. That is not how small business should feel. And it is not the first time.
I AM trying to move on. I was asked this week by city employees to help raise money and collect gifts for the cities Marine 3/1 kids that have 1 or 2 parents over seas. That is what I am focused on along with the other 16 kids my AWESOME staff & customers chose to adopt for Christmas bc they live in group homes. That’s why I have “calmed down” as you put it.
And re: the very last sentence in your article… We have stayed quiet speaking to our social media fans and customers for 11 years here in HB. We did NOT go looking for this attention. And you should know… It was the tiny small business Johnny’s Saloon that donated $4,000, 200 shirts & $1,000′s in Gift Cards to the Marine 3/1 Marathon last year and had over 200 of it’s dedicated and passionate patriotic patrons as participants on an early Saturday morning running/walking alongside the Marines last summer.
We were ASKED to get involved and help save the event and we OFFERED the generosity on our own. How many others could have stepped in? We did NOT ask for a gold star or a trophy and we did NOT go running to any media for a pat on the back. We did NOT take out ads promoting our feat to generate business. We did it bc we LOVE HB, We LOVE our VETERANS and we LOVE OUR CUSTOMERS!!! And we have for 11 years in HB way before this sign issue. You have our character all wrong.
ALL OF THE MEDIA so far contacted the city for their side of the story. The big FAIL was that you did not contact us for our side of the story. Lets meet up and have a beer and laugh about it!!! Bc we are not mad about your article, as you said you did it to piss people off… Which we appreciate too… And there are 2 sides to every story and, thanks to our Veterans, Freedom of speech. I am sure we will have some laughs.
As we have stated all along the city of HB is full of Patriotic people… A group of them adopted a Battalion of Marines and their Families and help them year round… We would like to support them and by Dec 18 collect as many donations, toys for kids under 12 or gift cards… Drop off to any Bartender and let them know it’s for the kids of the Marines!!!