Gaithersburg business owner faces fine or jail time over sidewalk ads

A small business owner was looking for a creative way to promote his online company but his street ads now have him facing jail time. The issue is what he used to get the word out about his business.

David Abraham wanted to target the Hispanic community in Gaithersburg to drum up business for his Hispanic social deal site. Blue stenciled ads along the sidewalks tout Ofertas Local, a Spanish-language version of Groupon.

“I just got creative with a typical everyday activity kids do, most people have grown up doing it, you've seen kids doing it,” Abraham said.

Police say Abraham cannot use city sidewalks as his own personal billboards. They have cited the Germantown resident with malicious destruction of property. The spray chalk takes up to 30 days to wash off, which makes it different from kids chalk.

Abraham feels his punishment a $500 fine or 60 days in jail is too harsh, especially given that the streets of Gaithersburg are dotted with spray paint from construction and utility crews.

“Near where I live, there are marks that have been there at least over a year, and those are not coming out,” he said.

Some neighbors along the stretch of Summit Avenue where most the ads are say it's not very different from graffiti, but others weren’t happy about the sprayed markings.

Abraham is appealing the citation. His hearing is set for this Thursday. He also says he plans to scrub some of the ads before then.