Judge: Port Jeff ice cream shop owner's rights violated when village ordered him to take down banner
A judge ruled that a Port Jefferson ice cream shop owner's free speech rights were infringed upon when village officials cited him for a large banner in 2020.
Property owner George Wallis had been cited for violating village sign ordinances for banners hung on a balcony near Roger's Frigate.
The banners were in support of former President Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial and another banner said, "Impeach Cuomo."
Wallis did not want to speak on camera, but Roger Rutherford, general manager of Roger's Frigate, says banners like these have been up for decades but only became a problem when they became political.
"It wasn't until 2016 when he started putting up political signs, mostly in support of then-President Trump that he came under scrutiny," Rutherford says.
Judge Tara Higgins made clear in the ruling that Wallis' constitutional rights to free speech outweighed the village sign ordinance.
Managers of the ice cream shop tell News 12 that many other businesses nearby have similar signs, but they were the only ones facing a problem because of their signs' message.
News 12 reached out to the mayor of Port Jefferson and had not heard back as of 4 p.m.
The village could appeal the judge's decision, but managers say the property owner is prepared to continue to fight if necessary.
"Wallis has never caved to village pressure," Rutherford says. "He kept the signs up until he felt it was time to take it down."