GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – As a battle over flags at a restaurant in Grand Rapids continues to heat up, the owner is now getting support from the law enforcement community.
The controversy started a few weeks ago when the Grand Rapids Planning Department received a complaint about too many signs on the Brann’s Steakhouse building on Leonard street.
They sent a letter to the owner letting him know that his signs were in violation of city ordinance. But Johnny Brann says there’s no way he’s taking the flags down that honor fallen officers and military members.
“Those flags are staying on the building, they are not coming down. It’s about supporting the military and law enforcement,” says Johnny Brann, owner of Brann’s Steakhouse.
Dozens of law enforcement officers from around West Michigan, as well as family members of fallen military members showed up at Brann’s Steakhouse in Grand Rapids on Thursday, to show their support for Johnny Brann.
“We’re behind him 100%. It means a lot to us as police officers to be able to look up and see those flags and remember the fallen," says Andy Bingel, with the GRPD Police Officer’s Association.
The flags on the side of the building facing Leonard street are at the center of the debate between the owner and the city of Grand Rapids.
“We do not regulate content. He has his first amendment right to put whatever he wants on his signs. We regulate the number, size and placement of signs," says Suzanne Schulz, Managing Director for Design and Development of the City of Grand Rapids.
The city says they’ve sent Johnny Brann a notice about the number of signs and if they don’t get a response they’ll eventually have to do enforcement, which would be tickets for non-compliance.
“We hope to do this through dialogue and not through enforcement,” said Schulz.
“We are 150% behind him because Johnny Brann is a true patriot," says Maria & Richard Kozminski, parents of fallen GRPD officer Robert Kozminski.
“I don’t want his memory to be ever be forgotten. When I drive by this building, and I see his flag and the other flags, it just puts a smile on my face,” says David Warsen, father of fallen Navy Seal David Warsen.
The city says the owner can file an appeal.
“If he wants something that is outside of what the code allows for if he wants more than what we would normally permit then that would be the request of the board of zoning appeals" says Schulz.
Johnny Brann says he plans on doing that so he can keep all the flags up.
“The only way this will work out to my satisfaction is if the flags and the names of the fallen heroes remain where they are. They deserve to be where they are and I’m not going to move them," says Brann.
So far, the city has not issued any ordinance fines to Brann’s Steakhouse.