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Grammy winners and other stars send in letters supporting The Birchmere’s new electric sign

New sign at The Birchmere (image via City of Alexandria)

Chris Issak, John Waters and Judy Collins are just a few of the dozens of famous artists who petitioned the Alexandria Planning Commission and City Council to approve The Birchmere‘s Special Use Permit request to keep up its flashy new 5-foot-by-2.5-foot digital sign along Mount Vernon Avenue in Arlandria.

The Planning Commission approved the request 7-0 on Tuesday, and it now goes to City Council. Planning Commission Chair Nathan Macek said that the letters with all of the supporting signatures would be “an excellent auction item.”

“Performing artists are now expecting the venues to keep up with the times,” wrote Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Judy Collins. “It is a necessary tool to promote the artists as well as the venue.”

Some requests were simple, like filmmaker John Waters, who wrote, “I am writing to support the Birchmere’s request to be allowed to keep their new LED sign.”

Chris Isaak wrote: “I wholeheartedly support the Birchmere Music Hall in their effort to retain their beautiful new sign. Please help them out… thank you!”

Gary Oelze, the owner of the music hall, erected the large electric sign last summer without city approval, prompting a request from the city manager’s office to go through an official process. Oelze, who was recently named a Living Legend of Alexandria, died last month.

“I think you know we do have a process in place for digital signs,” Macek said. “This is probably a case where they should have come in advance of putting the sign in.”

The Commission also approved a request to keep the sign lit until midnight, as well as the installation of a smaller sign at the entrance of the venue.

The following artists wrote letters in support of the new sign: