MINNEAPOLIS – The iconic Grain Belt Beer sign, that has greeted commuters near the Hennepin Avenue Bridge for more than 65 years, is getting a premium upgrade from its new owners.
August Schell Brewing Company bought the Grain Belt brand in 2002 and purchased the Nicollet Island sign last year.
The company plans to replace the aged neon tubes and 1,100 incandescent bulbs with LED lights.
“It's definitely going to shine again,” said Justin Weinberg, an attorney with Briggs and Morgan, which represents August Schell Brewing. “This is their brand, and they don’t want to see their brand and something representing their brand go in disrepair. So it makes perfect sense to bring it to modern times.”
The sign was moved to the Nicollet Island location in 1950 after spending its first nine years over the Marigold Ballroom on Nicollet Mall.
Damages and repairs have been a part of its long history.
“Maintenance costs and constant disrepairs made it go dark,” said Weinberg.
The landmark was dark from 1972 to 1989, but it was relit after a restoration by the company Sign Crafters.
The sign required further repairs just three years later and remained illuminated until 1997. It has been dark ever since.
“It was every other month of repair as it was under a monthly contract back then,” said Steve Lawrance, who originally restored the sign with his brother at Sign Crafters, which his father owned.
Now the new work on the old sign will stay in the Lawrance family, as Sean Lawrance, Steve’s son, will do the LED replacement work under his father’s company SML Electrical.
What once cost $4,000 a month in electricity will soon cost about $7,500 a year, according to Weinberg.
The brewery still needs final approval next week from the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission.
If all goes smoothly, the sign should be lit by the end of the summer.