CLEARWATER — Goodness knows there are plenty of baddies roaming the streets of this city.
You name it.
But Clearwater is now safe from one brazen — or should we say braised? — outlaw.
Yes, it's true. Officials have cracked down on the dancing dumpling who, until last week, waved a saute pan in front of the Pierogi Grill on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard.
The employer of Pierogi Guy, alias Frank Dippz, 25, had been admonished before.
Clearwater sign inspector Mary Jo Weaver said the city sent a warning on April 11 to Marek Pietryniak, president of Piramida Grill & Steak House, the restaurant's owner.
As a human sign, Pierogi Guy violated the city's sign code. Comply by April 18, the city warned, or be fined.
But the restaurant apparently thumbed a potholder hand at authorities, perhaps thinking the law had bigger dumplings to fry.
Weaver said officials continued to get calls about how Pierogi Guy beckoned traffic later in the evenings when inspectors — who are required to witness and take pictures of violations in order to cite someone — were off duty.
That changed May 3, when a sign inspector caught the 5-foot, 8-inch pasta bite while working a weekend shift. The business at 1535 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. was then issued a citation for violating the "signs carried and waved on the public right of ways" ordinance. The restaurant has until June 26 to pay the $138 fine or contest it in Pinellas County Court.
A second fine carries a $263 penalty, which includes court costs.
"You kind of feel bad for people because they're trying to do everything they can to survive, but that's not one of the things, unfortunately, that they're allowed to do," Weaver said.
Pietryniak, who did not return calls for comment Wednesday, is no stranger to the city's sign codes, Weaver said.
In April 2006, when the restaurant was an Egyptian-themed place called Piramida, inspectors wrote Pietryniak up for what they said were improper signs painted on the restaurant's outside walls. But the business challenged the violation in circuit court and won. A judge ruled the paintings weren't signs, Weaver said.
Weaver said "human signs" come in waves and most comply once warned. She said the episode with Pierogi Guy — the subject of a feature story in Sunday's Times — is the first time she can remember actually having to issue a citation in this type of case.
"It's really not something that's a major problem, but it's certainly prohibited," she said. "We don't want motorists looking at these people and then rear-ending the cars in front of them. And if they weren't prohibited, they'd be everywhere … and that's not a pretty sight.
"Our job is safety and aesthetics, and we take a lot of pride in making our city safe and beautiful."
Although he is hesitant to point a doughy finger, Dippz said he suspects nearby residents of complaining because motorists honk during his shifts.
"It's stupid,'' he said. "We're not causing problems. I'm just walking in front of the restaurant. There's no harm in that. It's not like I'm standing in the middle of the street. I value my life too much.''
Eileen Schulte can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4153.