ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — It looked harmless enough, but the words on a billboard un-nerved so many people that a popular restaurant nearby actually lost business.
The billboard was on Colonial Drive near the Old Cheney Highway. Although the popular Straub’s Seafood restaurant often advertises on it, this wasn’t their billboard.
The sign was taken down after Channel 9 started asking questions.
The billboard came down around 4:00 Friday afternoon and nearby business owners are relieved. Straub’s restaurant can replace the sign with the night’s specials.
At first glance the sign looked like a children’s cartoon, but the message next to the fairy princess stirred emotions.
“When you condemn all religions and say they are a fairytale that is wrong,” said Rich Stormes, a nearby business owner.
The billboard went up a week before Easter and business at the restaurant went down.”Easter Sunday is usually a busy good day,” said John Russel, an employee at Straub’s. “Easter Sunday business was down by two thirds.
“Since it’s so close, John Russel’s customers thought the restaurant paid for the billboard. To clear any confusion up, Russel put up a sign of his own and called MediaNet, the company who owns the billboard.
“It’s been causing us some problem. I think it’s causing a bit of controversy city wide. People have been contacting the media,” Russel added.
MediaNet said it had no idea the sign was there and someone put it up illegally in the middle of the night.
Nearby business owners said they weren’t buying it.
“They should have known what was going up on the billboard. He should proof it. He had to proof it,” Stormes stated.
The billboard rents for $1,400 a month. If an anti-religious group paid to rent it legitimately there is not telling how long it would have been up.
Orange County does not regulate messages on billboards. They are protected by free speech.