Warwick District Council distributed an enforcement notice to Kevin Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Bar on Regent Street in Leamington.
He was asked to remove the decorative superhero statues outside the Grade II-listed bar, to which Murphy had appealed, but ultimately conceded.
The notice was issued in April last year and gave Murphy the deadline of 30 June 2018 to remove the Batman, Superman and Spiderman statues, which were taken down on 2 July.
In order to campaign against the council, Murphy spent £5,000 for an appeal, changed his name to “Bruce Wayne Batman” after paying a £35 fee to gain publicity, and began a petition to keep the statues, which received over 1,400 signatures.
Murphy stated that he is not only sticking up for himself, but for other businesses in the road that have been pressured by authority to change their appearances. These businesses, including the bar, are all in a conservation area.
Murphy told Leamington Spa Courier: “It looks like (the authorities) are trying to say to me ‘We’ll show you who is in charge’. So I’m saying to the council if they are going to be pathetic then I’m going to be pathetic too.
It’s just a bit of fun, it adds a bit of character to the area and it would be nice if sometimes a blind eye could be turned on these type of things
– Kevin Murphy
“People bring their children along to have a photo with the statues and nobody has said to me ‘Take these down, they offend me’. Drawing customers in helps me to raise £4,000 for charities each year through various events so it could be said that by me being busy the public is benefitting that way.
“Among the legal mumbo jumbo there is a line which says that any ‘substantial harm to the asset must be weighed against the public benefits’. For me the council are just pushing outdated rules and regulations that have no place in today’s market.
“But really, the name change is just a bit of fun. The world could do with more things for people to smile about right now.”
Earlier this month, Murphy conceded to the council’s request. In addition to removing the statues, he will have to repaint the front of the premises to white and magnolia to keep up with the appearance of the area.
He argued: “There are bigger issues in Leamington this just pales into insignificance and nobody has complained to me or the council.
“It’s just a bit of fun, it adds a bit of character to the area and it would be nice if sometimes a blind eye could be turned on these type of things.”
Regarding the notice issued to Murphy’s Bar, a council spokesman said: “Alterations and additions to Grade II-listed buildings before receiving permission is unlawful and we work closely with businesses in our town centre to avoid having to take any formal action.
“It is unfortunate that ‘Batman’ has been installed on the building together with other works carried out, and we are in conversation with the owner to seek its removal as soon as possible so that we retain the character and appearance of this attractive area.”
Commenting on the removal, a Warwick student said: “Murphy’s is a unique bar and should have the right to be different from the other establishments on Regent Street.”
Another added: “It’s the statues that attract my attention whenever I walk by. They add character. Not having them around will definitely be less enticing for customers, which is a shame.”