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DEBATE: How should downtown businesses indicate they are open?

Town leaders are taking aim at the methods in which downtown businesses indicate they are open.
“Lighted open signs have cropped up, particularly within the last year, almost like dandelions on the lawn,” said Dr. William Kennedy, chair of the town’s Historic Zoning Commission. “I think it’s become a problem, I really do.”
The HZC first looked into open signs in downtown businesses one year ago after receiving complaints about lighted — and in some cases, flashing — open signs in storefronts on Main Street.
“Our business signs should coordinate with our policies for our general town signs,” Kennedy said. “The businesses are saying they need to be able to signal that they are open. In the past, we had banners (used to indicate whether a store was open). Should we encourage that again? If so, should we limit the size of the banner?”
“It’s a tough issue,” said William Stout, HZC member. “If you try to regulate (how businesses indicate they are open), it’s really regulating creativity. And part of Jonesborough is the individual business’ creativity.”
Debate regarding open signs and other downtown signage quickly turned into a discussion about business hours.
John Browning, a member of the Tree and Townscape Board, spoke at a May meeting of the HZC about lighted kiosks in downtown that are being developed to guide tourists to area businesses.
“You’re going to have them lit,” said HZC member Mitzi Sobol, “but shops are not even open at night.”
Browning said leaders hoped the lighted kiosks would serve as “encouragement for businesses to extend their hours.”
“We want to really plan for what we want this town to be,” Browning said. “For Jonesborough to work, we really need to have a full day to offer visitors if we want them to stay the night.”
Kennedy agreed, citing some research that suggests businesses like those in downtown Jonesborough get the most business between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
“If I were a business owner, I’d find some way to be open during those hours,” he said.
Subcommittees of both the HZC and the Tree and Townscape Board have been tasked with further examining the issues of business signage in downtown.
Any decisions regarding changes in how businesses can indicate they are open will wait until the downtown construction project is finished, Kennedy noted.