published Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Doughnut strong: Chattanooga finds an issue it can get behind

A doughnut mural covers the side of a building near Koch's Bakery on 20th Street.
A doughnut mural covers the side of a building near Koch's Bakery on 20th Street.

Hollie Berry was hoping for triple digits — a one followed by a couple of doughnut holes.

She wanted the City Council to alter its sign ordinance so Koch's Bakery could keep its $11,000 flying doughnuts mural. If she could get 100 signatures on her change.org petition, she thought, maybe the elected officials would listen to her.

She doubled her goal by the end of the first day. And from there, Berry's "Fight Crime not Art!" petition has continued to grow, up to about 1,500 signatures Monday.

"I didn't expect it to blow up," Berry said. "Now, I don't even think I have to write a letter. I think it speaks for itself."

The petition is one of many ways Chattanooga residents have spoken out against the sign ordinance, which requires Koch's Bakery owner Barbara Davis to paint over her mural. Because she sells doughnuts, according to the ordinance, the painting is actually an advertisement, which is not allowed.

After news about the mural broke last week, the City Attorney's Office asked inspectors to stop any action against Davis until lawyers could review the case and try to clarify the ordinance.

In addition to participating in Berry's petition, some residents have planted signs in support of Koch's Bakery. Others are using the hashtags #savethedonuts and #flyingdonut to protest the ordinance.

Someone else created a Twitter handle pretending to be the actual painting. As of Monday afternoon, @SaveDonutsCHA had 980 followers.

But of all the issues in Chattanooga, why has this generated such support? Berry said the issue seems petty, which is actually one of the reasons people have protested. They feel that city officials should concern themselves with more important issues.

Plus, doughnuts taste great.

"If it was a mural of snakes," Berry said, "probably it wouldn't get the strong backing that doughnuts do. The subject matter could easily be a factor in its popularity. But simply because there are other issues that the city could be addressing ... the idea that this could even come to the forefront is kind of preposterous."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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