MANDAN, N.D. — The owners of a Mandan bar are preparing to take legal action to fight the city's demands that they paint over their Western-themed mural.
The Lonesome Rose is working with a libertarian legal group, the Institute for Justice, to defend its mural that depicts the name of the bar along with a rearing horseman against brown hills at sunset.
The Mandan City Commission ordered the bar last month to remove its mural because the business doesn't have a permit for the outdoor artwork.
The bar first received a citation for the mural in October.
Co-owner Brian Berube said the owners didn't apply for a permit because they weren't aware of the requirement.
The bar owners then sought compliance with the Mandan Architectural Review Commission, but their permit application was denied. The city doesn't allow a mural to "be placed on the front of a building," or to "convey a commercial message."
Lonesome Rose also applied for but were denied a sign permit for the mural.
Erica Smith, an attorney for the Institute of Justice, sent a letter last month to Mandan's building official calling the city's treatment of Lonesome Rose unconstitutional.
"We strongly recommend that you allow Lonesome Dove to maintain its wall painting and that you amend your sign code to allow all murals, regardless of content," Smith wrote.
Mandan city attorney Malcolm Brown responded to the letter, arguing that the city's stance isn't unconstitutional because the bar's painting is a sign, not a mural. Brown wrote that it's within the city's policing powers to regulate signs.
Berube said the city hasn't given the bar a deadline to remove the mural. Berube said he hopes to avoid a lawsuit, but that he refuses to paint over the art.
"We've made up our minds that we're not backing down," Berube said. "We'll fight it to the end."