Seattle Suing Advertising Company For 'Sham Signs' In Downtown Area

Did you know City Ordinance dicatates that signs and billboards on buildings must be “used solely by a business establishment on the lot where the sign is located to promote products and services available there?"

Looks like Total Outdoor, a national advertising company, didn't know, or didn't care. City Attornery Pete Holmes announced he is suing the company and "several Seattle building owners and businesses for flagrantly violating the on-premises sign code."

The ordinance, originally put in place to "reduce visual blight and driver distraction" finds four signs in violation:

1) A 1,650-square foot sign on the exterior of the Oxford, a four-story apartment building, initially advertised available apartments, but was quickly used to promote a parade of Total Outdoor’s clients: Icelandair, Microsoft Windows Phone,, and JOE TV.

2) A now-defunct bar called Noc Noc received an on-premises sign permit, but even though the bar shut down in August 2013, the sign has continued to advertise Go Pro cameras and other products.

3) Garibaldi Restaurant, a tenant in a building on lower Queen Anne Hill, is permitted to advertise on a 392-square foot sign on its façade. The sign has been used for the benefit of ROKU (a consumer electronics company), T-Mobile, Blue Moon Beer, and Crispin. The sign has periodically been used to advertise Garibaldi Restaurant.

4) The sign for Trago Cocina and Lounge in South Lake Union has advertised AT&T, DICE (a job search website), Nokia/Microsoft/AT&T, and Northface. The sign has periodically been used to advertise Trago Restaurant.

To be clear, signs on businesses may be used to promote the business itself or services it provides, but not national branding like this. The city is sending letters out to the business owners and Total Outdoor to offer a solution sans-litigation.

“The law is clear,” Holmes says in a press release. “Total Outdoor and its partners have hauled in money by violating the law. It’s long past time for them to stop.”

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