Many skyway readers have inquired about the on again/off again (mostly off) status of the Grain Belt Beer sign on the east bank of the Mississippi just north of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge.
D'Nardo Colucci is Ph.D. of Illuminati, a consulting company specializing in lighting, and a representative of Signcrafters Outdoor Display, the local company that did the original sign renovation work in the 1980s. He still keeps up with the Grain Belt sign but says obstacles to getting it lighted again are formidable.
"One, neon is very hard to maintain, especially here in the frigid North," Colucci explained. "Two, the thousands of tiny incandescent lights are also rather short-lived. These two add up to a maintenance nightmare, which is why the sign never stays lit for very long."
A Signcrafters spokesperson said, "We've been working on getting it working again this year. The problem has always been that someone will find the money to get it refurbished, but no one will find the money to maintain it. If you don't maintain something with that many mechanical and electric parts, it goes to hell pretty quick. It's still in the Eastman family. The elder Eastman passed away, but the children are working on getting the deal done."
Eastman family representatives could not be reached. No cost estimates could be obtained.
Still, lager and lore lovers, with a little wheeling and dealing, the famed beer beacon may again be shining bright by year's end!