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November 11, 2009

What's with all the annoying 'Open' signs?

led open signHas anybody else noticed these tacky, flashy LED 'Open' signs that have been popping up all over town?

In the past year or two, it seems like they've appeared in the windows of half the restaurants, bars and carryout stores in Baltimore. Some signs just say 'Open.' These signs beat you over the head with it.


Was there some kind of Kmart special on these things a little while back?

Or did half of Baltimore's restaurant/bar owners make a secret pact to pester passersby with intense 'Open' signs? ...

The other night, some friends and I were walking past Meridian 54 in Canton when, suddenly, we were visually assaulted by one of these intensely flashing OPEN signs (pictured).

Blinded by the sign, we accidentally staggered onto Boston Street and were almost run over by the Skittles car.

OK, so that last part didn't actually happen. But it just goes to show you how dangerous these things can be.

I'd like to start an online petition to have these signs removed. Hey, Department of General Services -- now that Flamingogate is settled, can you start fining businesses for this?

(I tried to take a picture of one of these signs, but it melted my camera phone. So I used a photo from this Web site)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:06 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


C'mon they're not that bad. I bet they're significantly cheaper than neon signs and use less energy. Unless you live right across from one of these things (I'm thinking the Kenny Rogers Roasters sign from Seinfeld), I don't see what the problem is.

i don't know Sam, but i used to own a sign company in Balto. and "flashing" neon signs were not allowed by the local gov't ordinances, at least not in Balto. County. I sold some big LED signs to several banks, but they were not supposed to "flash" their message as it's a driving hazard. If any sign permit police happen to see them, and they're not allowed, you may see them come down...they do make field trips to check for compliance from time to time..

I have a sign outside my house that flashes "AWESOME ZONE". No complaints yet.

Isn't Meridien 54 CLOSED?

Totally agree Sam. These are the cheapest, most tasteless looking signs and I see them on all types of places, from high end to "hole in the wall," and they're appropriate for neither. I'm going to start forwarding this article to restaurants. You or Liz should start a list of pet peeves and this should be near the top. Additional items should be plungers, toilet brushes and cleaning supplies next to the toilet. Let's face it, they're tacky and no customer is going to use any of them, so why destroy the character of a perfectly nice bathroom; especially at a nice restaurant. I'm sure restaurant designers hate it when restaurateurs do this.

Sam, you must have read my mind! I live down the street from O'Donnell's Pub on S. Potomac in Canton and just last night I looked at their window and noticed a hideous neon sign just like the one shown in your picture. No way was that there before..I would have noticed.

They are not limited to Baltimore. They and the similiar signs for coffee* have been around for the last few years. I hardly notice them anymore.

They are not really as terrible as Sam describes for most places, i.e. your corner deli or coffee shop**, but still, they don't exactly enhance the appear of the more upscale places estheticlly and gives the impress of places that use them as being so bourgeois at best, like running shoes with a tux.

* I've seen more of them.
** most of these places have been using some sort of "open" sign since day one anyway.

They are not limited to Baltimore. They and the similiar signs for coffee* have been around for the last few years. I hardly notice them anymore.

etc... this mine

Are they really all that bad? I mean isnt being able to see it from your car better than, parking, walking up to the door, looking for teeny posted "HOURS," cupping your hand over your eyes and peering thru a door or window?
They sell these signs at COSTCO.

what is the deal w/meridian 54? besides the arbitrary name i mean... i walk past it daily - granted I'm usually in a post-work haze - and noticed yesterday that all of the (tacky) specials details were removed from the windows. Lights were on, but the only person inside appeared to be an employee sitting at the bar. Hostess? Bartender? Server? I could smell food cooking though.

So, are they closed or did they actually listen to the readers of this blog and remove the signs from the windows? Curiouser and curiouser...

I just ordered a flashing neon sign for my bedroom that says "UPSCALE". People got to know.

I work across the street from the new "Esquire Lounge" on St. Paul St.

Will someone PLEASE rip down that awful LED sign above the door?

I believe these "open" signs are a sign of the economic times. Restaurants, bars, and retailers are getting desperate. Most deli and corner store owners don't get it design-wise and those who do are simply capitulating out of desperation.


According to the online game Lemonade Tycoon, it is the Lightstar 3000, guaranteed to increase visibility to your stand, costs $100 and is "a visual treat of neon and flashing bulbs. The Pied Piper of store signs."

So, what's the deal with M54? I ate their Tuesday. If rumors are true, sad to see it go.

These loud "open" signs are more prevalent now because of the recession. Business's are starving and need to let folks know...."Hey, we are open". I am going to be installing one on my mobile service truck.... I will remove it after this horrible depression is over..... sorry about the eyesore, but when the phone is not ringing, we need to "up the ante" a tad. Sincerlerly, Marty Mechanic, Santa Cruz, Ca.

The design and flashiness of these signs is very invasive. It could be sending customers away instead of drawing them in. Although, these signs are designed to fit in with the overall theme and atmosphere of a bar. I do think they can degrade an upscale restaurant or facility.

I actually find them cute. But I guess it depends on where they place it. It should invite customers in and not annoy them. Perhaps in a higher place and not in eye level. Or make it less flashy.

That is obvious when you are declaring your new time table of in or out.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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