The Harris County General Store Barbecue Juke Joint may be a new occupant in its building on Lawndale Street, but the sign in question isn't. Houston Public Works inspectors notified owner Daniel Hinojosa earlier this year that the double-sided roadside sign was a violation of the city's sign ordinance.
"Those particular signs are not legal in the city of Houston, and if that sign wasn't permitted before a certain date, it's not eligible," Hinojosa told ABC13. "I think it was 1996."
The building once housed a bar, and the sign has been a fixture outside for more than 20 years. The previous business owners allowed the sign's permit to lapse, and it's technically been out of compliance since then, long before barbecue was served at the location.
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When the barbecue joint opened for business, Hinojosa took a can of spray paint and gave the old structure an update.
"I love brisket," is written in simple black cursive letters where plastic characters were once mounted.
Hinojosa said he was originally working with city officials to come to a solution, including removing it entirely, but now he plans to fight for the sign to stay in its place.
While the city wants it gone immediately, Hinojosa said sacks of concrete inside the sign were what kept the removal from being a quick task.
Just before ABC13 interviewed him, a city inspector arrived to follow up on the sign complaint and told Hinojosa that it's possible the sign could be permitted after all and survive, but later returned with news that wasn't going to happen after all.
Houston Public Works issues around 1,500 notices every month for visible sign ordinance violations in the city, according to representatives with the city. The enforcement efforts are in response to the city building code on signage, which include regulating portable devices like the one in front of Harris County General Store Barbecue.
Even if the "I love Brisket" sign out front may go away soon, Hinojosa said there's no question his barbecue won't.
"Whether the sign stays or goes, the barbecue stays," he said. "I may actually make a whole hog next week."
Charlie Haldeman is a manager of digital content for ABC13. You can find more of his stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.