City Turns the Lights Out at Local Restaurant

JANUARY 24, 2006 -- The neon light that used to snake its way around the China Buffet restaurant on Market Street would help draw hungry diners in like moths to the flame, but the city of Wilmington says the light just didn't belong.

The zoning law says a business with a street facing sign is subject to limits on additional signage, and Wilmington code enforcers felt the neon light came under the category of a sign.

China Buffet is confused over the distinction, as that purple neon had blazed for eight years. Now they're being asked to pay a fine of $1,600. That's $100 a day for the time they took to take down the light.

James Ryan works for Commercial Light. The sign company has supplied many Wilmington businesses with their neon. As a maker of neon lights, Ryan hopes this move by the city doesn't unplug his profession.

The China Buffet is still serving the community even without the purple tubes. Ryan hopes the city stops there and doesn't turn out any more lights.

Reported by Joe Keiley