Two high-profile Tucson businesses were cited by the city earlier this month for using murals to promote concerts and civic events downtown.

The Rialto Theater Foundation and Bookmans Entertainment Exchange failed to obtain permits for their large murals, both of which promote shows at the Rialto Theater at 318 E. Congress St.

The Rialto's murals are painted on the side of the theater, while the murals at Bookmans - which promote both Rialto's show and 2nd Saturday Nights - are painted at its North Campbell Avenue/East Grant Road location.

Despite their artistic style, the murals promote a commercial product and are considered signs under the city's sign code. Copies of the notice of violations issued by the city said neither business obtained permits for them.

Several city officials in the Development Services Department did not return calls Friday.

The murals, which change regularly, have been painted on the Rialto since September, said Rialto Executive Director Doug Biggers. They had been painted at Bookmans since about December, said Sheila Kressler-Crowley, marketing director for Bookmans.

Murals at both the locations promoted a show at the Rialto by the New Pornographers on July 21. Kressler-Crowley said someone might have been offended by the New Pornographers name and called in the violations.

The two businesses are taking approaches to what they will do about the murals, although Biggers called the citation silly and Kressler-Crowley called it lame.

Biggers said he doesn't have the time to put together a presentation to the Sign Code Advisory Committee, and said the mural will be changed so it could only be considered art and not a commercial sign.

It will include "provocative content in a non-verbal manner that will celebrate the theater" and its cultural expressions, Biggers said.

"We'll put up a mural that is pure art," Biggers said. "Our murals have been much appreciated from all the feedback we've received."

Bookmans, meanwhile, is trying to get a permit or a variance for its murals, so the company can continue to promote the Rialto along with downtown events.

Kressler-Crowley said the city has been open to working with Bookmans on the issue.

"It's really in their hands at this point," she said.

Bookmans just wants to help out the nonprofit Rialto Theater Foundation, she said.

"Our intention is to support a nonprofit and support cultural events downtown," Kressler-Crowley said. "We could paint over the mural. But that's not the point."

Contact reporter Rob O'Dell at 573-4346 or