Is it art or advertising? That is the question at the heart of a dispute regarding a 7-foot-tall fiberglass statue of the "Big Boy" at a Big Boy restaurant in the Detroit suburb of Canton, Mich.

City officials are trying to make owner Tony Matar take the statue down, on the grounds that it violates zoning ordinances against having more than one sign for a business. Matar is arguing that the Big Boy is a "sculpture," not a sign, and hence should be allowed to stay. "It's an icon," he told the Associated Press.

Matar sought permission to erect the statue from the zoning board in 2002, before the restaurant opened. Permission was denied, but Matar erected the statue anyway.

Matar has been ticketed for zoning violations and was ordered to take the statue down. Since March, he and his wife have collected more than 3,000 signatures in support of the Big Boy.

"The general consensus is: The Big Boy statue needs to stay with the Big Boy restaurant," said Helen, a restaurant employee who asked that her last name not be used. "And people are upset about the waste of taxpayer money over this."

-- Kari Lydersen

The Big Boy statue in front of the Canton, Mich., restaurant is at the center of a debate.