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SJC store owner fined for Christmas display

December 20, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
It's a "Santa standoff." A local business owner is being fined for his Christmas decorations. City officials say he's breaking the law. Some are calling the city ordinance the "Scrooge Law."On the streets of San Juan Capistrano, Christmas decorations dangle over intersections and adorn light poles along Camino Capistrano. But the city has its limits on who can decorate and how.

"I couldn't believe that they were 'pooh-poohing' on Santa Claus," said business owner Jim Curwood.

Not just any old Santa: a large, inflatable one.

Curwood is the owner of Buy My Bikes. He tethered Santa and a blow-up Yule slide outside his store. But he soon received a citation telling him his holiday display is not allowed.

Curwood has been in business for 32 years. He says the oversized Santa helps attract business, and it's only temporary.

"I think they should pick their battles a little differently, and it's very frustrating being a business owner for so long, that they're going to come and tackle Santa Claus."

Monday was a furlough day at city hall, but city officials released a statement: "The city of San Juan Capistrano received a complaint regarding a possible municipal code violation at this location. The inflatable sign is a violation of the city's municipal code and a notice of violation was issued."

"It's ridiculous. What is he hurting?" asked San Juan Capistrano resident Joan Boyer.

Boyer, who lives around the corner from the bike shop, has an inflatable train in her front yard. She says Curwood should be allowed the same decorating rights as residents.

"He should be able to put up what he wants. They're fun things, they're cute to look at," said Boyer.

Longtime customers agree. They say the anti-inflatable law seems rather "Scrooge"-like.

"I don't really think it's a big issue to have this stuff up in front of his store. Let's have fun with it," said San Juan Capistrano resident Steve Vandenberg.

The city could fine Curwood $100 if he leaves up the display. Curwood had no plans to take them down before the new year.


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