Sometimes it is not the big stories but the smaller ones that provoke a sense of injustice. In the curious incident of the stuffed dog and welcome sign in the wintertime, the local community is coming out in support of the owner of Petit Blue, who is set for sentencing on East Hampton Village code violations at the end of March.
For those not following this story, the owner of a local children’s store put out a large stuffed dog and welcome sign to let people know that she was open when many local stores shut down in the off season. She was cited in violation of the East Hampton Village Code and had to hire an attorney to defend herself in court. The judge announced a split decision that she was guilty on the first count of “attracting the attention of the public” with her outside sign but not on the second count by means of “goods and merchandise.” The stuffed dog was a personal item without a price tag and not for sale.
The conviction, which can come with a fine and jail time, has inspired outrage in a community where there are real concerns that this is how our taxpayer dollars and court time are being spent. A locally owned store which stays open year-round is a value to a village. Where is the fine for closing your Fifth Avenue brand store and just leaving up brown paper with a “See you next season” sign? Social media comments were vastly in favor of the owner, suggesting putting a stuffed kangaroo outside the court.
Technically it is the East Hampton Village Board that would have to change the code. When you take a deep dive into what exactly is in the village code, you would be surprised to see all the potential infractions. And many of them carry a $250 fine or 15 days in jail. I can just imagine the village jail cell conversation of a dad, a little old lady, and an Instagram influencer.
Influencer: “So, what are you in for?”
Dad: “Feeding the ducks with my son.”
Influencer: “What, it wasn’t gluten free? How about you, Gran?”
Little old lady: “Garage sale.”
Influencer: “Yeah, well it is the Hamptons. You should have called it an Estate Sale.”
Dad to the Influencer: “How about you?”
Influencer: “Areola issue. I tried to claim wardrobe malfunction but they didn’t buy it.”
All three look at the guy alone in the next cell in a ring master’s outfit.
Influencer: “Boy, he must have done something really wrong.”
Dad: “I heard him talking with his attorney. It wasn’t so much the circus as the guinea pig interpretive dance act. Big trouble.”
So yes, technically feeding the wildfowl within 200 feet of Georgica or Hook Pond is unlawful. You need a permit for a garage sale. And for this one I will quote, “No person shall appear clothed in such a manner that the portion of his or her breast below the top of the areola is not covered with a fully opaque covering.” Who are the code enforcement officers assigned to that? And the thing about a circus is that animal acts are absolutely not permitted.
I get throwing missiles into the street to be illegal but a snowball? (At least global warming will take care of that one.) Also illegal are peddling loosies (cigarettes), a flagpole not topped with a finial knot or an eagle, four jukeboxes (it is more than three coin-operated amusement devices which land you in trouble), or having a female dog in heat not confined. And may I point out, however, that male dogs who are not neutered do not face any such restrictions.
I believe all of us appreciate the efforts that go into preserving the charming nature of this village and do not want it spoiled. But there is a difference of a cute stuffed dog with a welcome sign and the giant windsock of a tall drunken gumby falling over. And can’t we support our local business owners who, by staying open year-round (instead of just the summer season to sell $500 bikinis), are really doing our community a service?
Well at least the stuffed dog won’t go out in handcuffs.