Buzzed Viking Brewing Co. moves forward without mural due to Locust zoning issues

LOCUST — The owners of an upcoming Locust brewery recently decided to paint over a newly-installed mural design to avoid a delay of its opening that is set for some time this autumn. 

The Buzzed Viking Brewing Company taproom and restaurant, owned by Jon Pokorny and Mike Moroe, is gearing up to open its second location in October or November after beginning with a Concord location two years ago. Specializing in the fermented honey drink mead and a diverse food menu, the brewery will be located at 805 W. Main St. in a 5,000-square-foot space where Outfitters Steaks and Seafood previously operated. 

After hiring Charlotte street artist Shane Pierce (who works under the moniker Abstract Dissent) to spray-paint an image of a Viking with a battle-axe on the side of its building, along with other art pieces, Buzzed Viking came to a crossroads this month when faced with potential Locust city zoning issues.  

The business could either erase the artwork and move forward with the construction process or be forced to encounter a three-to-four month delay by re-submitting a plan to both the Locust Planning & Zoning Department and Locust City Council.  

Buzzed Viking Brewing Company posted online that it was “disappointed but not mad” after choosing to paint over the murals in order to avoid the local governmental gridlock: “The murals are against city ordinances, and while we tried different avenues to keep them, our choices were only to either keep the murals or be able to open our doors so we chose to open to the public as soon as we possibly can.” 

Locust Councilman Mike Haigler addressed the situation in a social media post on Sept. 16: “The mural on Buzzed Viking was pretty cool, and I don’t think it was offensive. I know it wasn’t everyone’s taste or what they wanted Locust to look like. And that’s okay.”  

“I’m not anti-art, and in my opinion, a mural is not a sign,” Haigler continued. “I can’t say that our sign ordinance specifically discusses or covers murals. I have since had conversations with our city administrator asking that we seek ordinances from other towns specifically dealing with street art and murals… The only issue I have with it at all is that when the original plan was presented by the owners and conditional zoning was requested and approved by the council; the mural was not mentioned or presented. By NC law, conditional zoning is specific to that request.” 

A petition asking for the city to allow the repainting of the mural has recently started gaining traction on Facebook. As of Sept. 26, the petition has received 1,845 signatures on its way to meeting a goal of 2,500 in order to spread awareness of the situation.