County Orders Chicken on the Roof Grill to Remove Chicken

'We take it down, and we have no business.' —Chicken on the Roof owner Patty Janowiak

Patty Janowiak talks about her predicament as the owner of Chicken on the Roof Grill.
Patty Janowiak talks about her predicament as the owner of Chicken on the Roof Grill.
Chicken on the Roof Grill in Joppa has been around for a few years, but it was not until recently that Harford County started squawking about its signature feature—the plastic chicken perched on the roof overlooking Magnolia Road.

"Someone filed an anonymous complaint with the county," said Patty Janowiak, who owns the business with her husband.

Harford County's Department of Planning and Zoning confirmed that it cited the business for not having a permit for its chicken and temporary signs.

"We take it down, and we have no business," Janowiak said.

Janowiak said that the vinyl chicken has been on the roof since 2011, and the previous owner never had a problem with it, claiming it was not a sign.

The previous owner, who is now the landlord, closed the business in October 2012 after experiencing flooding from Superstorm Sandy. Janowiak and her husband bought the business in January.

While renovating the building, they took the chicken down briefly. "We had people ask if we could please put the chicken up .... It has entertainment value for children," Janowiak said, noting that parents will pull up and look at the chicken with their kids.

Others wanted the chicken back in its position for another reason. Janowiak said a "couple of gentlemen" came by one day and said that they had a specific use for the chicken—as pilots.

"They said they look for the chicken and a little pond behind it" as a landmark when flying to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Janowiak said. "We put it back up that day, and we've never ever taken it down since because we know they use it."

According to Janowiak, Kohl's distribution center in Edgewood uses the chicken when giving people directions to its facility on Trimble Road.

She said that when she bought the business, the chicken was there, and she isn't sure why now she is having to pay the price.

"It is very, very costly" to file for a variance to keep the chicken, Janowiak said. She has had to retain an attorney, and the county said she will need to get the property surveyed as well.

"That is going to come at an extraordinary expense," according to Janowiak, who said the minimum for the engineer-drawn and certified survey that is required is at least $2,000.

After she files, the Harford County Board of Appeals could still deny her request.

Janowiak said the county alerted her that if she did not file for a variance soon, with the survey included, she and her husband could be arrested on a warrant for failing to comply.

"We bought this business a year ago and we have tried in earnest to make it a nice place for the community to meet and eat," Janowiak said. "The chicken is a big part of our business and a landmark in Harford County .... I believe the county is bullying us right out of business."
helpussomeone December 12, 2013 at 01:21 PM
Tell em' to go "Cluck" themselves! Leave people alone!
Mike Gartside Sr. December 12, 2013 at 03:00 PM
To the owner Patty J. A lot of people are getting petitions started through www.chance.org which I have personally signed many. Get this up and circulate it via email and social media. I hope this will help you in putting pressure on the county so they leave you alone.
Life December 12, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Mike, I believe you meant www.change.org? I want to be sure we get it right so we can get this petition going asap.
Ray Burkins December 12, 2013 at 09:54 PM
I see nothing wrong with the chicken. Harford County is always forcing permits on people, we had a house in Abingdon with just under a half an acre of land. we applied for a permit for a deck and was denied.......we were told we would have to pay 450.00 to go in front of a board and they would decide. If they denied us they would keep the money, so we sold and moved to Baltimore county where they don't have stupid rules.
Allan Rothbard December 12, 2013 at 11:22 PM
This is exactly what is wrong with too much government, zoning and permits is just another way to extract more money from county residents. This isn't being a friendly business county, this is being a thorn in their side. David Craig is running for govenor and he allows this stuff to happen to county bussinesses. We need to rally with the owners on their property and make sure we're there to support them. If they get arrested because they don't comply to this ransom fee than something needs to be done. This county is suppose to be a Republican county too which is even more hilarious.
Kathy December 13, 2013 at 04:25 AM
All this fuss because someone complain about a chicken? Really? Who ever cried about it is the bigger chicken because they didn't even leave a name.
Christine Washenfeldt December 13, 2013 at 11:21 AM
I think there is nothing wrong with it and when giving directions it's a good land mark...What about all of the inflatable things people put up..They are even bigger and can fly away etc..Leave them alone....Soon you will want to pick on us in the holidays for having to big of things in our yards or on our roofs...
Jen December 13, 2013 at 11:38 AM
My daughter love "Big Chicken" that's what she calls it. Yes it is a landmark- NJ is built on novelties like this- Haven't any of you ever read "Weird NJ" or looked at the website. I am surprised Big Chicken isn't in the one of the two Weird MD. books.
Just Wondering December 13, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Don't blame the one who complained. It is the responsibility of the owner to get the proper permits. With this said it was probably someone else who has a business on route 40 who also got fined cause of a sign. That all it takes is for the county to fine one person then that person says hey what about these places and turns them in. The county usually leaves people alone unless someone complains so one person get turned in that person turns someone in and down the line it goes. Same way in Home communities someone gets turned in for putting a shed in with out getting approval that person goes around the development and turns other people in. Its our way of getting back LOL!!
Clayton King December 14, 2013 at 11:39 AM
All I can say can think of to say right now is a lil quote that I seen a few month's ago and it gose a lil something like this. Twinkle Twinkle Little Snitch Mind Your Own Business You Little Bitch. I guess whoever it was that made the complaint either don't like chickens or their just really butthurt about something either way just stop it's the season to be happy & merry and with that being said have a safe & happy holidays everyone
Tim December 16, 2013 at 07:53 AM
Where was the County when the business was purchased? I'm sure the new owners thought everything was in order. What about a "grandfather" clause? So ridiculous!! It is not in a residential area next to houses. It is unfortunate that one person had nothing better to do but complain about things that don't concern them.
Donna 'Kirn' Kiaunis December 17, 2013 at 02:13 AM
Their marketing coupled with their product results in their business staying solvent. Take away the sign which draws attention or fee them (with no guarantee of success) most likely results in closure. Remember Snappy Tomato? Your chose Harford County, tax paying business with jobs, or closed spray painted (tagged) dilapidated vacant building. Many small business profit margins are this small. Government employees wouldn't know this though.
Delicia Ferguson December 29, 2013 at 09:32 PM
Move it to Baltimore County! We have a plane on a bar here in Middle River. Harford County will write a citation if you sneeze without a tissue! I love the chicken, it's fun and it is good for business.
Shari Lynn White Fant December 29, 2013 at 11:34 PM
I love the chicken! People need to mind their own matters and stay out of others!!!! Get a life.
Dottie Hall December 30, 2013 at 06:27 PM
Please let them have their chicken,
amdactivist January 13, 2014 at 07:06 AM
One councilman does not have the authority to ask him to remove it. Code enforcement issue and I just wonder how many others in the area who has many large balloons blowing and other blow up structures has this Guthrie guy objected too.
Bob Ward January 16, 2014 at 08:04 PM
They got the wrong person mad, that's for sure.
Jack Frazier January 16, 2014 at 08:29 PM
Talked with councilmen guthries and he claims a planning and zoning issue and yes only need 1 complaint to tell him to remove chicken. I will be calling planning tomorrow and asking about the rules and see if these rules don't apply to many of other business's up and down rt 40. We'll see if they will be forced to take down their blow up toys.
Dominic Sanchez January 17, 2014 at 10:17 PM
Zoning is getting out of hand...
Eric W Daxon Sr. February 19, 2014 at 02:41 PM
LIKE Save the Chicken on Facebook. We care about small businesses in Harford County. People have the power, not government. We can change laws. Copy and Paste: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-the-Chicken/1405309473059317
Bob Ward February 19, 2014 at 06:25 PM
You are too late, they closed up as of Monday, and discounted the phones.
Bob Ward February 19, 2014 at 10:29 PM
Melissa M February 20, 2014 at 06:08 AM
Well, let's be honest.. If your entire business hinges on a giant inflatable chicken, your product probably isn't that good.
Bob Ward February 20, 2014 at 06:21 PM
Melissa they are out of business. No longer there....
Melissa M February 20, 2014 at 09:01 PM
I know, Bob, I saw your earlier comment. That is also why I made that statement. :)
Tim February 21, 2014 at 05:13 PM
They are still in business. The fact that they had to take signage down just goes to show you how it hurt their business. That chicken was used by planes as a landmark for Aberdeen Proving Grounds (see Baltimore Sun Article) and caught the eye of customers. This whole ordeal may very we'll put them out of business. Way to go County!! Way to loose more money!! Look at all that lost revenue from taxes!! Melissa go by and try their food (much better then the hamburgers at fast food joints) and them give your opinion on the taste of the food there. Not fair to new business owners who did everything they were supposed to do when the business was purchased.
Melissa M February 21, 2014 at 06:35 PM
Tim, you are the first person who has even suggested or recommended their food. Honestly, I do not make a habit of patronizing that area of the county (I just don't care for it). I have passed that place dozens of times and never did that chicken entice me to go in and try their food. However, if people had actually recommended it I might have considered trying it.
Eric W Daxon Sr. February 21, 2014 at 07:03 PM
Melissa, I ate there with my family and it was "comfort food". By no means was this diet food. I have never had hush puppies.... theirs were great. The Ruben was the best I have ever had. Many of my friends have eaten there and they all enjoy the food and service. The owner, Paul, is friendly and attentive.
Bob Ward February 21, 2014 at 10:36 PM
Eric, they are out of business. The electric was turned off and the phones are disconnected. The signage had nothing to do with the closing of their business. The problem was the owners, they didn't do anything but sit on their butts and. Had everyone do the work for them. That is not how you make a success. It's your own hard work, and from the Looks of The owner the only thing he's worked hard at is dinner
Bob Ward February 21, 2014 at 10:39 PM
P s and this crap about being used by the proving ground is a bunch of crap. Think about it,,, gee we are getting close to landing, oh damn where's that chicken, holly crap how are gonna land, May Day May Day this is jersey one to base we have an emergency,we can't find the damn chicken on the roof please send help!!'mommy..... Give me a break


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