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Pickle Man gets on Lake Forest's sour side

September 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The man in the pickle suit waves at passers-by at a busy intersection in Laguna Hills. But the sandwich shop he's promoting is in Lake Forest.For one week, the pickle hung out near Mr. Pickle's Sandwich Shop in Lake Forest, advertising its grand opening in a strip mall.

But last week, the pickle got on the city's sour side. Code enforcement issued a warning.

"They just told me to go up to the store and get off the street," said Julian Krizman, a Mr. Pickles worker.

Some say the pickle helped attract so many customers, they lined up out the door.

"I don't want to say it's the lifeline of the business, but it kind of is," said Mike Luzzi, owner of the restaurant. "People see it. Kids love it."

The city of Lake Forest has had a sign ordinance for several years, including banning human signs. The pickle falls under that category.

"It could distract drivers, cyclists or pedestrians," said Debra Rose, the city's deputy city manager. "It's primarily a safety issue."

The shop owner didn't want to can the pickle. He said it provides work for three young people at $9 an hour.

Some Lake Forest residents said the pickle has grown on them.

"It added a little local flavor and reminded you that the place was here," said Laguna Hills resident Rob Roof.

"The location is kind of secluded, so it's important to have someone promoting the place," said Jessica Jimenez, also of Lake Forest.

Luzzi asked about alternatives, like having the pickle sit outside during lunch. But the city wouldn't bite.

"We have to be consistent in how we enforce the rules, so someone might like a pickle, someone might not, but ultimately a human sign is not allowed," Rose said.

Luzzi now uses banners and insists business is good without the pickle.

For now, the mascot can appear only in neighboring cities. It can only relish the thought of one day returning.

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