Chicken on the Roof Grill Loses Business with Chicken Gone

The owner of Chicken on the Roof Grill gave an update on how he's doing without his roof fixture.

Chicken on the Roof in mid-January. (Credit: Elizabeth Janney)
Chicken on the Roof in mid-January. (Credit: Elizabeth Janney)
Since taking their rooftop chicken down earlier this month, the owners of Chicken on the Roof Grill said their business has decreased by 40 percent.

"Right now, I'm losing money," owner Paul Janowiak said. "The chicken is down, so people think we're closed."

The restaurant—which sells chicken, pit beef and other grilled items—sits off the corner of US Route 40 and Magnolia Road. It isn't visible to some of the traffic at the intersection without signage and the chicken.

"We're eventually going to have to go out of business," Janowiak said, unless Harford County allows the chicken to go back up. "It gave us visibility."

Janowiak took the chicken down Jan. 4 after an anonymous complaint was filed with Harford County's Department of Planning and Zoning.

The complaint resulted in correspondence from the county threatening arrest, Janowiak said. The letter is attached as a PDF and contains the following: 

"Please be advised that criminal charges are being prepared ... [that] involve violations of the Harford County Code which you failed to abate.... Under Section 267-14 of the Harford County Zoning Code, the court is authorized to impose criminal sanctions and monetary fines of $500 for each separate violation of the code and an additional $500 for each day the violation has existed."

The violations are not listed.

"Once these charges are filed, court appearance will be mandatory or a bench warrant can be issued by the judge. Court costs may be levied against you and the possibility of a guilty verdict on your criminal record exists," the letter stated.

The chicken had been on the roof since the Janowiaks purchased the business and opened it in January 2013. It came under investigation after someone filed an anonymous complaint.

"The law is ridiculous," Councilman Dion Guthrie, who has been an advocate for the Janowiaks, said.

"I know there has to be some kind of law to take care of how our community and county look, but the problem with this law is that it only goes into effect if someone complains," Guthrie told Patch. "If a person who’s in business wants to cause you some havoc, they can file a complaint to get the county on you. That's what we think happened in this case."

From Chicken on the Roof, "you can look for 360 degrees and not see a house. They don’t bother anybody," Guthrie said.

The letter the Janowiaks received from the county made reference to violations that "still exist" and concluded by stating: "...without further notice to you, criminal charges will be filed and the next person to contact you will be a representative from the Sheriff's Office."

Pete Gutwald, director of planning and zoning, said in mid-January that he could not discuss the case because it was pending.

Gutwald did confirm that there was previous correspondence about the chicken but the Janowiaks said this was the first letter they had received.

"We hadn't heard anything [after we opened], and six months later, welcome to Harford County!" Janowiak said. "Harford County is putting me out of business."

Guthrie offered to assist Janowiak Tuesday with filing for a permit to have his chicken back on the roof.

Chicken on the Roof Grill is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Sunday, it's open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is located at 1012 Magnolia Rd. in Joppa.

CM January 30, 2014 at 04:46 PM
The fact that the chicken was on the roof for over 9 months before they got busted for it is irrelevant. The fact that someone may have reported it to P&Z is irrelevant. Your opinion that the law is ridiculous is irrelevant. BTW, Mr. Guthrie, the law was in effect long before the chicken came along. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. The fact that there is not a house in sight while standing on the roof of the restaurant is irrelevant (BTW, all of the undeveloped land to the south of the restaurant is zoned residential). Regardless, even if there was, it would not matter because the restaurant site is zoned for Business. Here is the zoning map: http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/PlanningZoning/doc_map/map65.pdf Here is the zoning code regarding signs in business districts: http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/PlanningZoning/Download/1303-406.pdf Here is the link to the SINGLE PAGE building permit application that is required to put a sign on top of a business establishment (OMG! The bureaucratic red tape is KILLING me!), which requires an exorbitant application fee of $45 for a Roof Sign: http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/Downloads.cfm?FormID=38 Virtually every county in the country has some kind of regulations regarding signage, so this is a pretty thin excuse for breaking out the “oppressive government regulation” battle whine. Just stick to ObamaCare.
Rose Cooper February 02, 2014 at 11:05 PM
I totally support them being able to have the chicken on the roof, but the drop in business might have something to do with it being 13 degrees below 0 lately
ssaunders March 06, 2014 at 11:41 AM
The chicken is back on the roof!
Harford County Native March 10, 2014 at 01:08 PM
Just goes to show when you take over or buy a business you should always check to see if it was in compliance with local laws and state laws. Just because it was there when you bought doesn't mean that it was within compliance.


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