Cozy Inn files lawsuit against Salina over burger-esque mural

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Cozy Inn restaurant filed a lawsuit on Monday against the City of Salina over a mural on the side of its restaurant. The business is located at 108 N. 7th St. in Salina.


Last year, the city told the restaurant that a mural on the side of the building violates the sign code policy. The mural features “burger-esque flying saucers piloted by aliens with blasts of ketchup and mustard.” It forced the business to put the project on pause. The mural remains unfinished.

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The Cozy Inn restaurant in Salina on Nov. 13, 2023. (KSN Photo)
The Cozy Inn restaurant in Salina on Nov. 13, 2023. (KSN Photo)

In the filing, the restaurant’s owner, Steve Howard, claims the code violates free speech under the First Amendment and allows for “discriminatory enforcement.” Howard is asking for a permanent injunction to stop the city from taking action against the restaurant and the mural. According to the lawsuit, he is not suing the city for money and wants to complete the mural.

The lawsuit says that on Feb. 8, the city sent a letter “which neither granted nor denied a permit” and placed his application “on hold until a review of the sign regulations is complete.”

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The City of Salina released a statement after being notified of the lawsuit. The city believes its current sign code enforcement is legally justified. It said there have been ongoing conversations about The Cozy Inn sign and possible policy changes.

“In establishing sign regulations, communities are attempting to set up a set of standards that can be equally and fairly applied across all property owners, businesses, tenants, etc., that are within the same zoning district,” the city statement said. “Nationwide, this has frequently resulted in regulations similar to what Salina has in place that establish a ratio of signage numbers and size based on building or street frontage to maintain a level of proportionality to the building.”

Salina hired a sign code consultant to assist with community listening sessions on the topic and to help draft possible changes to the city’s sign policy. There have been several stakeholder meetings and a public listening session. More are planned.

The city says interested parties can email questions and comments to [email protected]. To get notifications about the project, click this link, follow the prompts, and subscribe to the “sign code” email list.

The Cozy Inn has been featured in Readers Digest and on the Travel Channel’s “101 Tastiest Place to Chow Down” and “America’s Top Ten Hamburgers.”