The famous Central Liquor sign located at 9th and F in Penn Quarter may soon be no more. Tomorrow, the DC Historic Preservation Review Board is scheduled to hear an application to change the iconic two-sided aluminum and enamel paneled blade sign. The new occupant of the building is proposing to remove the letters spelling Central Liquor and replace them with “Joe’s Souvenir”. If their application is approved, an American flag would also be added to the top circle where the C now stands.
Ever since the Central Liquor owners, Alec Akopov, Gregory Baiatyan and Valery Akopov, moved the store to its new 625 E Street location, the fate of the sign has been up in the air. “The [F Street] building owner now owns the sign,” Akopov told The Washington Times. “It is not ours anymore. We have a nice new space here and a nice new sign.” He said that the store’s current landlord did not permit a sign that large because of the residential units above them.
According to the HPRB Staff Report and Recommendation, the sign probably dates to 1936 when the already established Central Liquor was purchased by a new owner. As the store moved to different locations over the years, from 518 9th Street to the Victor Building at 724-726 9th Street to its current location, the sign went along with it.
It looks like the worst case scenario will be a less intrusive alteration than the souvenir shop would like. The HPRB is recommending that the store be allowed to change “Liquor” to “Souvenir”, but would limit the change there.
According to the Board’s recommendations, the subject of altering a historic sign has not come before it in recent memory. So, what do you think should happen to the sign? How important is it to keep visual remnants of a neighborhood’s past?