Sans his usual bow tie, Chick Levitt stayed up well past his usual bedtime last night to lobby the Annapolis City Council for a reprieve for the blue and orange neon sign that decorates the window of his well-known sandwich shop.
By 10:15 p.m., after meeting for nearly three hours, the council hadn't even begun to consider the issue of the sign at Chick & Ruth's Delly.
"I get up at 4 a.m. every day to go to work," said Mr. Levitt. "The fTC main thing I'm trying to say is that I'm not asking for special treatment, I'm asking them not to take something from me. The next thing they'll tell me is I can't hang a Hanukkah bush in the window during the holidays."
Shortly after Mr. Levitt and his wife, Ruth, opened the doors of Chick & Ruth's Delly 28 years ago, they hung a small neon sign: "Delicatessen" . . . "Breakfast" . . . "Kosher-Style Sandwiches."
It has hung there undisturbed ever since, beckoning the likes of politicians from Gov. William Donald Schaefer to President Clinton, many of whom have sandwiches named after them.
Undisturbed, that is, until two weeks ago, when the council voted 8-1 to ban all neon signs in the Historic District, which encompasses the streets that fan out from Church and State circles. Only the Subway sandwich shop on Maryland Avenue was to be allowed to keep its neon sign, because it received approval from the Historic District Commission several years ago.
Mr. Levitt and his supporters argue his sign should be grandfathered into the law, but a grandfather portion of the bill was deleted before the council approved the measure.
James Brianas, a Compromise Street resident, waited with Mr. Levitt and planned to testify last night.
"Sure he's business, but he's more than that -- he's family, and how can you do something to hurt family?" Mr. Brianas asked. "I'm against huge, obtrusive neon signs, but there are some signs you can't take away because of history and tradition."
Much of the council's evening until 10:15 p.m. was taken up with public hearings, including one concerning a proposal to build 24 condominium units on Bay Ridge Avenue across from the Eastport Shopping Center.
The project, by J&A Builders and Maryland Service Development Corp., would be designed to attract elderly residents, said Eileen Fogarty, director of planning for the city of Annapolis. Some points of the plan still need to be ironed out, she said, noting that Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat, wants to know how much of a burden the new units would place on the Police Department.