If you’ve walked, biked, driven, or stumbled past the corner of N. Humboldt Ave. and N. Water St. / E. Kane Pl. this summer, you’ve undoubtedly seen a striking addition to one of the intersection’s main draws, Fink’s. There, on the exterior of the bar’s north-facing wall—in plain view of east and southbound traffic, as well as diners across the street at BelAir Cantina—is a message spelled out in big, friendly letters: “COUPLES ARE BORING AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT.”
It’s a bold statement—cheeky, yes, but bold—and one that has divided Fink’s clientele since it was added to the wall in late June. “It’s about a fifty-fifty split of people hating it and finding it hilarious,” says Fink’s bartender John Van Lieshout.
The sign is the work of Filthy Freehand artist Sarah Linkus, who is no stranger to adding a bit of hand-lettered personality to Milwaukee bars and restaurants. In the past two years, Linkus has created the towering sign for Company Brewing, given The Vanguard some inspirational bravado (“BE SOMEBODY”), and adorned the Downer Ave. BelAir with a touch of romantic malaise (“I’ll go if you go”). She’s also done lettering for restaurants and bars like Blackbird, Odd Duck, Hi Hat Garage, and Hinterland.
“I have a pretty good collection of restaurant signage around town, so [the Fink’s sign] seemed to be the obvious path for me considering I’ve been in the service industry for over 10 years,” Linkus says. “I was friends with [Fink’s and BelAir co-owner] Scott [Johnson] before I started my lettering business, and once I got up and running he asked me to do some work for him at a couple of his spots. After [the BelAir Downer] project, he said he wanted to do something even bigger at Fink’s.”
That “something bigger” was “COUPLES ARE BORING AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT,” a phrase Linkus says was brainstormed by herself, Johnson, and his partners. Linkus was expecting “a little flak” for it, but nothing like the reaction it ended up creating. A quick glance at Fink’s Facebook page reveals a host of angry messages, from the annoyed (“You are probably offending more than half of your clientele with your new wall art”), to the outright offended (“Couples are not boring and I won’t be spending any more of our money at your bar”).
“I think people are more likely to be outspoken about something they don’t like than something they do, so you don’t hear all the positive feedback,” Linkus says. “As a whole, most people I’ve talked to a think it’s hilarious. I think it’s hilarious.
“I’m married and have a kid, so I’m speaking from this side of the fence,” she continues. “You find someone you love, and you grow up and settle down. You don’t go out and party ’til sunrise five nights a week anymore only to wake up somewhere you don’t remember going. The wall doesn’t say, ‘Couples are bad and everyone knows it.” It says they’re boring. And compared to their pre-couple selves, they are.”
Happily, for those boring couples that feel the sign hits too close to home, there’s a way to change it. Fink’s is now accepting submissions for a new phrase for its wall. The creator of the winning submission will walk away with $500 in Fink’s credit, while runners-up with have their phrases immortalized on the back of Fink’s coasters. Even better, the sign will change three times per year. Here are the official rules:
WANT TO LEAVE YOUR MARK ON FINK’S? HERE’S YOUR CHANCE
We’re looking for a new saying for the side of our building. Think you’ve got something memorable to draw attention to our otherwise beige exterior? Go for it!
If you submit the fan favorite, your saying becomes our mural, and you win $500 to spend at Fink’s and tell your friends all about your verbal virtuosity.
Use your words. We’re not looking to repurpose that Bob Marley quote you had hanging above your bunk freshman year. Be original.
Keep it short. 40 characters or less, including spaces. One submission per guest, per visit. Make it count, change it up.
Nothing too offensive. It won’t make the cut.
Van Lieshout notes wannabe sloganeers “kinda sorta have to buy a drink to get a form and submit their idea,” but they can also submit their “cleverest/quotable/snarkiest/truthiest new knowledge dart” online.
As for Linkus, she ultimately sees the dust-up created by her sign as much ado about nothing, and the contest as a chance for those who have taken issue with the sign to right a wrong.
“There are an awful lot of things going on in the world right now to get up in arms about,” she says, “and I don’t really see this as one of them. It’s meant to be funny, and it’ll be gone in a few months anyway. Maybe if someone is truly upset about it, they could go in and suggest something funnier for the next painting.”