A lawyer who recognized the value of billboards ran into a roadblock when he purchased five buildings for the purpose of advertising his law firm on billboards.
In an effort to reduce the number of billboards, New York City’s permit requirements for outdoor advertising now only allow a billboard when the building is occupied by the business advertised on the billboard.
The problem arose because the Law Offices of John J. Ciafone, Esq. was advertised on the billboards but the buildings are owned by different corporate entities controlled by John J. Ciafone, Esq.
Because he was using the billboards to advertise his own law firm on the buildings “he” owns, Mr. Ciafone did not apply for permits for his billboards. But the court ruled that the corporate entities are different than Mr. Ciafone’s law practice even though Mr. Ciafone claims he owns the buildings through corporations for tax and liability reasons.
According to law.com, the total fines assessed, because of his failure to obtain permits for the billboards, are in the amount of $380,000.
Initially, Hearing Officers found that the signs didn’t fall under the definition of outdoor advertising because the lawyer was promoting his own law practice and was not providing outdoor advertising space to other businesses. The case was appealed and a three-judge panel ruled against the attorney, finding that the attorney’s corporations and the attorney’s law practice are different entities.
Fortunately, the problem is easy to resolve by transferring the buildings from the corporations to Mr. Ciafone. All he has to do is pay a little more taxes and he’ll be able to continue advertising his law firm on billboards.