Falafel stop ordered to remove food signs

Palos Hills allows drive-thru to hang drive-thru to hang

By Kelly White

Palos Hills has given a drive-thru food stop on Harlem Avenue permission to hang a display banner for 60 days.

The City Council’s action last Thursday was prompted by officials’ displeasure with food display signs the owners of Pita Falafel hung on a chain-link fence outside the drive-thru, 10348 Harlem Ave. The 12 four-foot-by-six-foot signs, which enabled customers to view photos of the foods offered before pulling up to place orders, violated a city ordinance that prohibits businesses from hanging signs from fences. The City Council and Building Commissioner Gene Nelson at last week’s meeting ordered the owners to immediately remove the signs from the fence.

“Most drive-up restaurants simply have a menu board as you pull up to order,” said Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett. “Authorizing them permission to allow the signs to continue hanging will be setting a precedent for allowing other businesses in the city to want additional signage outside of their building.”

Pita Falafel owner Mervat Ghusain told the council not all customers are familiar with the foods served there, and that the signs offer a visual aid. A falafel is a traditional Arab food, usually served in a pita or wrapped in flatbread known as a lafa.

Bennett countered that the description of the food can easily be described over the drive-thru’s intercom for customers who have questions; however, Ghusain noted she has tried the method and that it takes a lot of time, leading to back-ups in the drive-thru lane. The photos were only used to described the more uncommon or unusual foods, she added.

Palos Hills Alderman Martin Kleefisch (1st Ward) suggested Ghusain make and distributing flyers with photos and descriptions, which he said would familiarize residents with the food available. Ghusain answered that she has done that, and acknowledged it has helped; however, claimed the signage helps keep customers coming back.

The city has authorized Pita Falefel to hang one display banner for 60 days, which Bennett said will give customers plenty of time to get a chance to visit the restaurant and become more familiar with the foods. The banner must be reasonable in size, he added; but a size limit has not been set. City officials suggested displaying different banners over the 60-day period.

According to city ordinance, the banner must be able to be wind-blown. It cannot be a solid placard or obstruct traffic.

“We do feel for them, and we want their business to succeed,” Alderman A.J. Pasek (3rd Ward) said.