AN IRANIAN shop owner has compared the city council to the government in her homeland after the local authority removed an advertising sign for her West End shop – and then demanded £50 for its return.
Melody Wishart, who owns fashion boutique Meloosha in Alva Street, had a free-standing sign removed last Thursday because it was not directly outside her shop.
The sign, which featured an image of a woman along with the word ‘Meloosha’, was situated on the corner of Alva Street and William Street – around 20 metres from the boutique – but Mrs Wishart was told she was breaking the law.
The 35-year-old from Trinity was not alone – several shops in the area also had their advertising signs removed, with each being told they must pay £50 to have them returned.
After the shopkeepers, who have been badly hit by tram work, complained, their signs were returned the following day without charge – but they were warned that they must keep them directly outside their shops in future.
Mrs Wishart, who was born in Iran, said: “We were not aware that this was the law, we had no warnings or anything. I think this is another money-making scheme.
“I’m really struggling and £50 is a lot of money to pay just to get your own sign back.
“At the time I thought if I didn’t pay it, the council would probably sell the sign and make money. It was almost like they were doing it to raise money for the tram project – that’s how I felt at the time.”
She added: “This is the kind of thing that third-world countries do. I am from Iran and my government does things like that.
“In my country, for example, if one of the officials has new technology like satellite, the government starts saying that satellite is banned and they go round all the houses taking the satellites, knowing people will have to buy the latest technology.
“It’s like a black market and a way of making money out of people.”
The mother-of-one from Tehran, who had placed the sign – which cost more than £100 – in the same spot since she opened the shop in November 2009, moved to Edinburgh in 1995 aged 18 to study.
She said trade at Meloosha had been greatly affected by a combination of roadworks associated with the trams, and the economic downturn.
She added: “I put this sign up for people walking past and if they don’t see the shop, they might see the sign and it will attract their attention.”
Meanwhile, owner of Odyssey Boutique, in William Street, Sarah Connelly, 33, also had her advertising sign removed from the corner of Alva Street and Stafford Street – and returned the following day without charge.
She said: “When you’re in an off-the-beaten-track shopping area, you need some kind of sign so people can find you.”
A council spokeswoman said, following a complaint, council officials removed a number of advertising boards in Alva Street that were “in breach of current regulations”.
She added: “Advertising boards are required to be placed outside the shop front only, and this is a measure supported by both heritage and resident groups alike.”