Last weekend, when The New York Times ran a travel piece, "36 Hours in Baltimore," they illustrated it with an iconic image that represents Charm City's unique character. It wasn't the harbor or Camden Yards or the Aquarium. It was the giant pink flamingo in front of Cafe Hon in Hampden. It was a great choice, the flamingo, created by former MICA student Randall Gornowich perfectly captures the offbeat humor and, yes, charm of our city.
Ironic, then, that just days after the Times piece appeared came word that Baltimore City has been trying to force Cafe Hon owner Denise Whiting—a relentless Hampden booster who created HonFest—to take down the flamingo or pay a "public privelege permit," which will cost her $1,378.95 for the first year, $809.38 for every year after that.
"I think that maybe Baltimore City is looking for ways to increase revenues," Whiting told me yesterday. "I think taxing small businesses is not the way to do that"
Since the Sun story came out, Whiting says she heard from other business on the Avenue. "Grano had some tables and chairs and an awning and they’ve been taxed. Suzie Soba has been taxed for her awning," she says.
But the support has been overwhelming. "We’ve had every television station here and radio and now I’m putting together a press release. I’ve gotten phone calls and just general support. I even got a clandestine phone call that said we could direct people to call the mayor’s office," she says. "A friend of mine who’s an attorney has contacted me and offered his assistance and said he handles matters like this on a regular basis."
Suffice it to say, Whiting is confident the famous flamingo will continue to beckon Hampden visitors near and far. "I’m feeling pretty confident that Baltimore City is beginning to understand the weight of the pink flamingo resting on its shoulders a little heavier than it originally thought," she says.
[photo countesy of The New York Times]