GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The owner of a popular West Michigan restaurant chain says the signs on one of his restaurants that bear the names of fallen soldiers and police officers will stay put.
“Simply put, I’m not taking them down,” Johnny Brann, the owner of Brann’s restaurants, said. “I know all the families of the fallen heroes and I committed to them that their sons are going to be remembered. It’s so important to them and me.”
Brann said he was told the signs and flags on Brann’s Steakhouse on Leonard Street NW near Turner Avenue violate city ordinance.
“I was sent a violation notice from the city of Grand Rapids for flags on the side of the building as well as the names up above the flags of all the fallen heroes,” he said.
The city told 24 Hour News 8 the signs are in violation due to their size and number. The city sent Brann the letter after getting a compliant from a resident.
Brann said the flags used to be on top of the restaurant for about five years. About a year ago, they were moved to the side of the building. The nameplates were added to the side of the building about a year and a half ago.
“They have to respond to complaints, which I understand and respect. I received the notices, I read them and filed them. They can stay in the file because I’m not taking them (the flags) down,” Brann said.
One of the flags is for U.S. Army Specialist Eric Burri, who was killed in Iraq in June 2005. His father John Burri said he doesn’t understand why someone would complain now.
“It’s very upsetting knowing that after they’ve been up there a while already, someone is complaining and they want to do something about it,” he said.
Burri also thinks the flags and signs should be allowed to stay.
“This is this man’s business. It’s his building. This is supposed to be the land of the free. At what point do you say enough is enough,” he said.
Brann’s situation has garnered a lot of attention, so much so that members of police and military support groups drove from all over the state Sunday to support the restaurant and its owners.
“We understand cities need ordinances, and we get that, but it’s more important we honor the people that sacrificed everything for us,” said Amy Waltrop of Back the Badge Michigan.
Members of a group called TeamG8#38 were also at the restaurant.
Brann said he plans to file an appeal with the city of Grand Rapids this week.
“They will be up there and they will not be taken down,” Brann said.
**Correction: A previous version of this article stated the name of the second group was G8. It is actually TeamG8#38. We regret the error, which has been fixed.