Downtown BR's iconic Coca-Cola sign is covered up

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An iconic sign from Downtown Baton Rouge's skyline, the Coca-Cola sign, is covered with a black tarp, but the question is why?

Raising Cane's marked its grand opening Thursday at the new Downtown Baton Rouge location. The well known Coca-Cola sign sits right above the building.

Cane's CEO Todd Graves said they do not own the sign or the property. Instead, Michael Crouch owns both through MDC Properties. Crouch refused to be interviewed, but his lawyer James Clary, did confirm Crouch covered the sign on Wednesday.

The iconic sign went up at the corner of Third and Florida streets downtown nearly 70 years ago in the 1940s.

"The Coke sign is a very unique sign. I've been told there's only a few like it in the country right now," said Downtown Development's Davis Rhorer. "It's a part of the fabric of the city and served the city in its heyday in the 50's. It was shining bright here when it was Willis-Liggett Drug Store."

The sign was renovated in the 1980s and then in March 2014, the sign's neon and electronic parts were all replaced.

In a letter to Coca-Cola dated May 21, Clary stated "For reasons which totally escape us, some recent restoration and refurbishing work on the sign was performed without the permission or consent of MDC Properties, even though Mr. Crouch reached out to Coca-Cola on this very issue months ago."

The letter went on to read, "Accordingly, the sign has been disconnected from its power source and shrouded. The sign will be uncovered and can then be relit once an agreement is reached with MDC Properties regarding the use of the sign. Such agreement must include provisions regarding the purchase of property and liability insurance for the sign, the maintenance of the sign, and a fair agreement remunerating our client for market-rate advertisement charges for use of the sign."

Graves said that sign is one of the main reasons he wanted to bring a Cane's to Downtown Baton Rouge because he remembers it from when he was a child.  Although it was covered for their grand opening, Graves hopes to resolve the issue soon.

"I think it's one day. I'm looking to be open here the next 50 years, so we'll figure it out," said Graves.

Melanie Clark, vice president of marketing for Coca Cola in Baton Rouge,  sent a statement.

In it she says "we did hear today a letter was sent to us, but we have not received it yet," Clark said.  "We are shocked he would treat a historical icon in this fashion. The sign just underwent a complete renovation and we are worried that it could be damaged."

When asked about the advertising costs, she said "we are not the owners of the sign. It's owned by the Arts Council because it's historic. We're just really surprised by this turn of events for a sign that has been a part of Baton Rouge for a very long time."

This is Raising Cane's 184th restaurant opening since 1996.

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