When downtown Charleston bar owner Hope Young was informed that the U.S. and POW/MIA flags she had been flying outside her business were unauthorized and had to come down, she was dumbstruck.

Not only is Charleston a patriotic city, she said, but she has friends in the local Vietnam veterans community and knows what each banner means to them as daily symbols of sacrifice.

“Those flags to me are very, very precious,” said Young, co-owner of the Chucktown Tavern. “They need to be flown.”

What started as a landlord-tenant squabble has turned into a debate about patriotism after a Charleston real estate company ordered the Stars and Stripes and the black-and-white POW emblem taken down, a move Beach Co. officials said they do not plan to amend.

In a letter last month, Beach Management, a division of the Beach Co., said the flags were not authorized and that the plain green banners that had been on Market Street flag poles need to go back.

“We in no way intend to disrespect the country we love, veterans or those military personnel taken as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action,” property manager Donna Brashier wrote to Young and her husband/business partner Marty Young.

She went on to say the company has “no choice” but to comply with regulations by reinstalling the plain, solid-colored decorative flags that originally had flown there.

The flap began in October when the Youngs agreed to host a recognition for local veterans and friends in the courtyard of Majestic Square, outside the bar’s doors.

About 10 people showed for the low-key flag-raising where the U.S. and POW/MIA banners went up.

Among the attendees was Vietnam vet Allen James, a member of the Lowcountry Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, which supplied the replacement flags.

“It’s just something that I’ve always had a heart for,” said James, 62, of West Ashley. He served in the Army in Vietnam from 1970 to 1972 and is friends with the Youngs.

He said the tavern was an ideal area with a lot of foot traffic, and that tourists and locals could see a banner that doesn’t get a lot of visibility or promotion.

“I just thought that (POW/MIA) flag needed to be flown in downtown Charleston,” he said.

For the next few months the flag flew unnoticed. But the situation soured after Chucktown Tavern hosted an outdoor party this year, seemingly annoying another tenant. That’s when the letter from Brashier showed up.

In addition to the flags, the note listed complaints about improper signs, mismatched deck furniture and noise issues at the bar. The Youngs were told they had 20 days to make corrections or face what was termed landlord “remedies.”

Marty Young said he has no idea why Beach officials picked the moment to also order the flags down.

“I have asked myself that question 100 times,” he said, “and literally nothing makes sense.”

What’s even more confounding, he said, is that city leaders say the flags don’t violate any part of the city code. Planning Director Tim Keane said Wednesday that both banners are legal under the city code because they aren’t commercial in nature. He called them “just fine.”

Beach Co. President John Darby said the original green flags are what the Board of Architectural Review permit was granted on. The more “festive” green banners are designed to fit the retail shopping on Market Street, he said, and that he doesn’t see the patriotic flags going back up.

Marty Young said he and flag supporters plan to send a letter to the Beach Co., asking it to reconsider. His suggested solution is to put the two flags back up, along with a city of Charleston flag and a state of South Carolina flag, so that it all becomes one single locally relevant display.

Hope Young said she just wants the issue to be resolved on the side of local veterans and military people.

“My God, this is who we are,” she said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.