MIAMI BEACH (CBS4) – You can’t miss the vibrant mural in front of Tattoos by Lou on South Beach. The mermaid riding on the back of a bald eagle is just unusual. It’s been there for 23 years, but it may disappear soon.
“It’s been in fashion spreads. It’s been in music videos. It’s been in movies, you know TV shows. It is a part of Miami Beach,” Michelle Cameron, the owner of Lou’s told CBS4’s David Sutta.
The sexy mermaid is a bit risqué for television and perhaps now, even South Beach. The city has ordered Tattoos by Lou to take it down.
“We are angry and we’re upset and we feel victimized,” Cameron said.
Lou’s and neighboring stores got the full work-up by code enforcement last month, after someone made a complaint about the building. Many were cited, including neighboring Scooter City who lost all their window signs.
“I just want to see my business do well,” said a disappointed Avi Chanero. “In a city like this, it is hard to succeed.”
Lou’s is fighting back though, clinging to a permit from the early 90’s. The city isn’t sure it applies because in 2000 following a hurricane, the mural changed.
“When it got damaged we changed the graphic.” Cameron explained.
Now 12 years later, Lou’s is being told a design review board must approve the mermaid. Cameron showed CBS4 the pile of paperwork and said, “I read this over and over and over again.”
The 20-page application comes with a $2,000 price tag by the time you pay all the fees and mailing costs to alert surrounding residents about your hearing.
“We are a small family run company. We don’t have $2,000 to spare to go and fight the city,” Cameron said.
Tourists passing by didn’t seem to understand it either.
“They should keep it. It’s not doing any harm to anyone,” Brena Wilkes said.
Graciela Flores, visiting from Argentina didn’t see the big deal either, but guessed, “Maybe because the mermaid is naked. But who cares? We are on South Beach.”
Truth is the real thing and is just two blocks away… and legal. So far though, the city is maintaining it’s about a permit, not content.
Cameron thinks she’s in the right.
“It doesn’t have our business name or logo, anything. It’s just a piece of art,” Cameron said.
For now the Mermaid will have a few more days in paradise. Tattoos by Lou is not being fined while the mermaid bears all on 14th street. They’ll be meeting with the city in two weeks to decide her fate.