The owner of the 20th Street sandwich shop Rhea’s Cafe has forced the removal of a Sirron Norris mural that depicted characters from Bob’s Burgers, a popular animated Fox TV sitcom.
Fearing copyright infringement, the building’s owner enlisted Rhea’s executive chef and owner, James Choi, to paint over the four-month-old mural that had decorated its front roll-up doors. The mural of a couple embracing lovingly, depicted the show’s main characters, husband and wife duo Bob and Linda Belcher.
Norris, a local street artist who was once a tenant in the building that houses Rhea’s Cafe, is also the lead illustrator of the Bob’s Burgers sitcom.
“The producer [Loren Bouchard], who Sirron met, lived on 20th Street, a couple of blocks from here,” said Choi. “So that show was conceived right on this street.”
Moreover, Bob, the show’s lead character is a passionate restaurateur who is always under threat of going out of business.
“I kind of felt like Bob portrayed me – me and him had a thing going,” said Choi.
The new mural, he said, was an inspiration. “We are still trying to make it but it’s pretty tough. I looked at [Bob] in the mornings and thought, we gotta do it buddy.”
But the building’s owner did not share the same affection for the animated restaurateur. When the owner returned from a trip a couple of weeks ago, he demanded the mural be removed, Choi said. The management company told Choi he would be in violation of his lease agreement if he did not take the mural down. On Thursday, he finished that task.
Choi declined to share the name of the management company or the owner.
The owner, he added, “didn’t want any liability for it being a TV show owned by a TV station.”
“They want to be able to sell that property without any controversy or anything,” said Norris.
Sometime last year Norris noticed that an old mural of his on the roll up doors needed to be refreshed or replaced. He decided to replace it with the Bob’s Burger theme and finished it in late fall.
Choi, a fan of Norris’ work, said he had no second thoughts when the artist replaced the existing mural that Norris had painted on the cafe some 15 years ago.
The owner, however, was unhappy with the change. “I think he didn’t like that we just went in and changed the mural, which changes the value and look of a building,” said Choi.
“There was a blue bear [on the door] that Sirron did about 15 years ago,” said Choi. Norris has several murals in the Mission and is known for his political cartoons distinguished by his signature blue bears.
The new mural was well-received by the local community, said Choi, and seemed to be a perfect fit, as the sitcom was birthed in that very neighborhood.
Norris added that he chose the theme of Bob’s Burgers because of that history.
“I felt that it was an opportunity to do something unique to celebrate the show at this cool spot that was the apex of where the show was created,’ he said, adding that those behind its removal “aren’t connected to the community. If they were, they would know that people want public art here.”