An historic liquor advertising sign overlooking Plaza del Sol in Madrid (Spain) is at the center of a controversy swirling throughout the city over whether “Tio Pepe” will reappear on top of the building after construction is finished and the Apple store opens later this year. It is not a trivial concern for residents of the thousand year-old city, where Tio—a jaunty sherry bottle wearing a hat and holding a guitar—has watched over Puerta del Sol for 76 years. The 70-ton sign was removed in April 2011 when construction began on the building, upgrading the upper-floor hotel and creating a ground-level Apple store. According to El País, the advertising contract between the building’s owners and the advertising company expires June 30th, and the building’s owners are not interested in renewing it. The advertising firm has been unsuccessful in finding another location for the sign. For now, the 75 by 30-foot sign sits dismantled in a warehouse outside the city. Apple leases space in the building and has no direct authority over the sign, although their store architecture has always stressed historic preservation. Starting with the Regent Street (London) store in 2004, Apple’s architects have created several European stores within historic buildings, even paying for the restoration of historic features as part of a store’s construction. A Facebook page appeared today urging supporters of the sign, “Salvemos Tio Pepe,” and gathering over 1,500 petition signatures within hours.
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