Goodbye "Gator Boy?"
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Sitting proudly atop his scaled steed and sipping a steaming cup of coffee is Gator Boy, the subject of the mural on the Cajun Kitchen’s parking lot wall.
The mural was painted earlier this year by artist Curt Crawshaw, and has captivated many in the community. Cajun Kitchen co-owner Juan Jimenez commissioned the painting as part of his re-branding initiative.
However, Jimenez did not obtain approval before having the mural painted, and has recently been forced to fight to keep it on display.The city contacted Jimenez during the summer to inform him and his co-owner that the mural would have to be painted over unless they applied for the proper permits.
“We understand that people don’t want Santa Barbara to look like L.A.,” said Jimenez, “But it’s gotten to the point where Santa Barbara is looking way too plain rather than beautiful and historic. And too plain can be a negative.”
When he learned that it was unlikely that the permit would be approved, Jimenez started an Instagram campaign with the tag “#savegatorboy.” Anyone who posted a picture posing with Gator Boy received a free T-shirt.
Though the campaign accumulated over 200 posts before Jimenez ran out of T-shirts, the mural was ordered for removal in August 2015 by the Santa Barbara Historic Landmark Commission (HLC).
According to the hearing’s agenda, “It was noted that, while it is appreciated as an expression of art, it is not an appropriate permanent improvement located within El Pueblo Viejo.”
There are no other permanent murals in the area. The single temporary mural will only be on display until December.
Jimenez argued that “We believe that this mural does no harm to downtown Santa Barbara, and the community really enjoys it.”
The city council members all agreed that the mural was very charming, but didn’t want one tasteful mural to start a precedent for other less tasteful murals the according to Santa Barbara Independent.
Though the mural has been ordered to be taken down, the city council has said that Jimenez can renew the case for Gator Boy before it is actually painted over in August.
City councilwoman Cathy Murillo said that “Outside of the boundary, I would fight for Gatorboy, too,” and later, “I do think there’s something we can do in the next 12 months.”
Cajun Kitchen has been a fixture of Santa Barbara for over 30 years, and has been consistently voted best breakfast in Santa Barbara. Serving breakfast and lunch, they offer a variety of Cajun and classic meals including blackened catfish, the Cajun burger, French Dip and the famous “Les’ Omelette,” which lures in customers with with bacon, Swiss cheese, green onions and mushrooms.