Coca-Cola to restore downtown BR sign

The Baton Rouge Coca-Cola Bottling Co. will fully restore the iconic neon Coca-Cola sign at Third and Florida streets.

The work will include replacing all of the neon and electronic components of the sign, said Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District.

Rhorer announced the sign restoration at Tuesday’s DDD meeting.

“This is a very, very important component,” Rhorer said. “It’s had to endure a lot of things, like hurricanes.”

The Coca-Cola sign was built in 1946 and lit the streets for years.

The sign was part of a national promotional campaign by the soft drink company, but over the years, neglect led to disrepair.

The sign was repaired in the mid-1980s, but storms dimmed the red neon. In 2002, the sign was relit, with the help of the DDD, the Downtown Business Association, the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, Entergy and Baton Rouge Coca-Cola. The sign is owned by the Arts Council and Entergy covers the utility costs.

At the time of the 2002 restoration, Rhorer said, Baton Rouge officials figured the sign was one of three left in the country.

The neon and electronic sequencers in the sign need to be replaced every so often because of what they experience being outdoors and exposed to storms, said John Miller, division vice president for Baton Rouge Coca-Cola.

“If that was a sign inside a restaurant, we wouldn’t have to replace it, or we would do something every 50 years,” Miller said.

Work has already started on the sign restoration and the process is expected to take about six to eight weeks.

Baton Rouge Coca-Cola is paying the entire cost of the restoration, which Miller said comes to about $20,000.

“For us, the way we view it, it’s such a signature part of downtown,” he said. “We want to have it up there in great working order, especially with so many things going on downtown.”

In other news:

BAR/RESTAURANT: Brian Ott and Zac Love, who own Uncle Earl’s, a popular Perkins Road bar, said they plan to open a new bar and restaurant at 324 and 326 Third St.

The bar doesn’t have a name yet and the concept is still being developed, but it will feature a selection of draft beers, along with plate lunches, gourmet hamburgers and fries. The bar will feature live music and it will be non-smoking.

Chris Meyers, who owns the Three Bones Catering Co. and food truck, will handle the menu for the new restaurant. The bar is set to open in the summer. The bar will take up the first floor of the building, which had been occupied by Latil’s Stationary. The second floor of the building will be occupied by a catering business and reception hall owned by Andy Blouin and Sean Malone. Blouin and Malone, who own Blend Restaurant and Wine Bar and Boudreaux and Thibodaux’s, own the entire building.

CATS ROUTES: DDD Commissioners also heard from Bob Mirabito, CEO of the Capital Area Transit System, who discussed the new routes the bus system will introduce March 30. The expanded service is supported by a 10.6-million property tax Baton Rouge and Baker voters passed in April 2012.

The new service will lead to 12 routes coming directly into downtown, Rhorer said.

There will be a park-and-ride service from O’Neal Lane for Livingston Parish residents who work downtown, along with direct express shuttles connecting downtown to the Metro Airport and the Mall of Louisiana.

Route times and wait times will be dramatically reduced.

“We’re actually doing this with the same amount of buses,” Mirabito said.

New bus schedules will be released Sunday.