The Beef over Auburn Butcher Shop’s Trademark Steer

AUBURN -- He's the longest serving employee at Longhorn Meat Company aside from the owner.

"Yeah, he's been there like 10 years," Auburn's Longhorn Meat Company owner Phil Kattenhorn said. "It feels like a part of me. If it wasn't there, I would feel hollow."

Since they offer every cut of meat available, hollow is something that's hard to feel around this butcher shop.

Long-time customers and owners alike fear that's just what'll happen if the city's planning commission steers away from letting Longhorn's trademark steer remain in what they say is it's rightful place.

"He made it sound like I had to take it down and that it was going to come down," Kattenhorn said.

That all came up after Kattenhorn submitted plans for expansion to the city.

A design review team made a site visit to the bustling butcher shop and sliced right into the advertising offerings they found.

Several small, unpermitted signs were removed right away.

So what's the beef about the big guy?

"The current city doesn't allow, typically, doesn't allow rooftop signs," said Auburn's Senior Planner Reg Murray.

So while the city sees a just a sign there, folks in and out of Longhorn's see the soul of a business.

"I love this place. I like the steer. i think it's part of Auburn. It gives Auburn more of an old feel," said Joyce, a long-time Longhorn's customer who's a big fan of their filet mignon.

Joyce and her husband Dick believe the steer is art and point out that other art around town isn't being turned out of its pasture.

"What's the difference between it and the statues down in town by the dentist," questioned Dick.

"These are like life-size people, you know? With all of the important components showing, you know, the steer looks like he's pretty well privatized," he said.

This more modest mammal's human family has taken to Facebook and an in-store petition effort to try and save it, but all that may not have been necessary.

City planners say the barn door hasn't shut on removal mandates.

"The steer can live, yes. It's just that there's an additional process they'd need to go through," said Murray.

That process?

Requesting a variance or special permission from the city to keep the steer stuck over Longhorn operations for many grilling seasons to come.

"That's part of me. That's part of my soul. If that comes down, it's just a punch in the gut," said Kattenhorn.

He does plan to file for a variance so that the steer his dad picked out before turning the business over to him, can stay.

That could cost about $300.

Auburn's planning commission will discuss the steer situation on Tuesday.