Local News

This Flag Flew Boldly

Posted June 13, 1998

— On this Flag Day, a continuing Durham controversy may move from city hall to the courthouse. It may take a judge to decide if a 600-square-foot flag is a show of patriotism or an act of defiance.

The Stars and Stripes was hoisted above the Bob Evans restaurant just after midnight, in honor of Flag Day.

It measures 20 feet x 30 feet, much larger than the 6 feet x 10 feet the city allows. The restaurant's been fined twice, but managers aren't backing down.

"The county allows a larger flag to be flown on holidays, and today is Flag Day. Today is a holiday," said manager Joe Wiseman. Asked if the restaurant isn't inside the city limits, Wiseman responded that the hadn't seen a city limits sign and does not know where one is.

Today a veteran tried to donate $50, in case the restaurant is slapped with a third fine. The manager said he appreciated the offer, but decline the money with thanks.

Wiseman says he doesn't want a fight, but local veterans groups are gearing up for one. They tried unsuccessfully to convince the city council to change the ordinance. Now they're threatening to file a lawsuit.

"If the city council wants to play hardball, we know how to play hardball," said Al Metcalf, who was awarded the Purple Heart. "Yeah, we'll take them to court."

That comes as no surprise to Durham Mayor Nick Tennyson, who predicts the flag flap will eventually be resolved in court. In the meantime, he says the restaurant can't continue to defy a city ordinance.

"It really is not the intent of any law, at least in my view, for us to set some dollar amount that somebody can pay in order to go ahead and do something that we don't want done," Tennyson said.

The general manager at Bob Evans says the company will not get involved in a lawsuit. But he suggests he may fly his flag again during a national holiday, like July 4th.


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