That's a question Brussels is asking in a debate over the fate of its iconic CocaCola sign, presently turned off by government order last year that described it as 'disproportionate.' The sign on the Continental Hotel on Place De Brouckère, has been the subject of divided opinions since it was installed in 1952.
The building is no longer a hotel; it's occupied by the city government's housing finance association. The sign, updated in 2011 to LED lighting, measures 5.5 metres by 12 metres. City orders required a dimming in 2013. In 2015 it was hacked by a group opposing a new trade treaty. The original 1952 version replaced a 30-year-old ad for a French aperitif.
A hearing in Parliament last week failed to clarify the status. Among the mixed feelings, some have suggested that it is a last remnant of its era and should be preserved, while others would like to see it gone. And the city will likely keep in mind that the sign brings the city €12,000 a month in rent.
It's a dilemma some other cities have solved by declaring signs historic monuments. In the U.S., New York has preserved signs for Domino Sugar and PepsiCola along the East River waterfront, and Boston still has its Citgo sign.
Image: the sign in 1989 and 2021