Double Rainbow: Venice Signs Spark Colorful Debate

Photo: Morgan Genser.

Venice Pride, Venice Chamber of Commerce feud over Pride Month signs. 

By Sam Catanzaro and Amy Patton 

Marking the 50th-anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, attendees of the annual Venice Pride Sign Lighting & Block Party at Windward Circle danced in the street last Saturday under two rainbows that are at the center of a debate between Venice Pride and the Venice Chamber of Commerce. 

For the past three years, the Venice Chamber of Commerce and Venice Pride, a non-profit that promotes and protects LGBTQ interests in Venice Beach, have collaborated to put on the sign lighting and block party to kick off Pride Month with the Venice sign changing to rainbow colors. 

On February 22, 2019, however, the Venice Chamber of Commerce canceled Venice Pride’s chamber membership. In addition, the Venice Sign Trademark License Agreement granted to Venice Pride on April 1, 2017 was revoked, meaning Venice Pride is no longer able to sell apparel such as shirts with Venice Sign branding. In March, the chamber announced that they would be taking down the Venice Sign in June during Pride Month for unrelated maintenance. 

On May 21, Venice Pride Board President Grant Turck said that Venice Pride had commissioned and would install a rainbow Venice sign of their own over Windward Avenue for 24 hours for the Venice Pride Sign Lighting & Block Party.  On May 30, however, the Venice Chamber of Commerce announced they would, in fact, light up the Venice Sign in rainbow hues for Pride Month despite previously saying the sign would be down for maintenance. Therefore, on Saturday, June 4, attendees of the Venice Pride Sign Lighting & Block Party were greeted by two signs: a double rainbow. 

In a statement provided to Yo! Venice, the Venice Chamber of Commerce said that Venice Pride’s installation of a sign for 24 hours “demeans” the Venice Sign. 

“Manufacturing a replica of the trademark-protected Venice Sign is a direct affront to the Venice community as it has the potential to cause the Venice Sign to suffer the same fate as the one originally installed by Abbot Kinney back in 1905. To protect this beloved community asset,  the Venice Chamber hopes that the Venice Pride organization will, in the coming years, redirect their efforts to create a unique and original concept for their celebrations. The Chamber is concerned about any unauthorized use because of the potential it has to demean a community treasure that we hope will be enjoyed by generations to come,” the Chamber said. “Part of the obligation of protecting the trademarks is that we are bound to address infringements. If we do not follow up on unauthorized usage, it places our trademarks in jeopardy.  This can ultimately cause us to lose the ability to take care of the sign on behalf of Venice.” 

In response to this, Venice Pride told Yo! Venice that the sign they installed for the sign lighting and block party was an “original” design. 

“Following notice in March that the “VENICE” sign would be taken down for the month of June due to unrelated maintenance, Venice Pride designed and commissioned an original sign based on the free ‘Gilbert’ font under a Creative Commons License. Inspired by the design language of the iconic Rainbow Flag created by Gilbert Baker, the mobile sign spanned Windward Ave for just twenty four hours,” Venice Pride said in a statement. 

According to Venice Pride, more than 2,000 people attended the sign lighting and block party, the largest event to date according to Venice Pride. Notable attendees included Stonewall survivor Everett C. Alexander, DJ Victor Rodriguez, Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders Quinton and Sammy, non-binary Drag Queen Posse, Restauranteur Daniel Samakow and out LAPD Captains Shannon Paulson and Peter J. Casey.