He steadfastly refused to comment for this article, however, on the fate of the bar’s famous signage.
The future of the blazing red, yellow and green Art Deco-style script, often seen in the backgrounds of films and television, including Donnie Brasco and Seinfeld, has been in doubt for quite some time.
In 2006, Mr. Chahalis was shocked to find out that the building’s co-op board had submitted plans for a new storefront renovation plan that called for replacing the well-known sign. He pleaded with local leaders to intervene.
Robert Tierney, chairman of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, publicly stated his “concern about the iconic sign.” The building’s architect, David Acheson, ultimately promised, “The P & G sign would remain as long as that tenant remains,” and the landmarks panel passed a stipulation that “replacement of the sign shall be approved by the commission.”
At the time, Mr. Chahalis hoped to hang on to both the location and its bright beacon. “Our ideal would be to work out a new lease,” he told The Observer back then. “If we can’t do that, our next step is, where can we relocate? And can we bring our sign with us?”
Now that his intended renewal has been nixed and his plan-B relocation is all set, the signage issue becomes the next hurdle. And a tricky one at that.
Beyond the mere logistics of physically removing and reinstalling the neon lights, the process would likely require not one but two public approvals, as both buildings fall under the landmarks law.
And who knows what the bar’s new neighbors, including the esteemed American Museum of Natural History across the street, will think of the strip’s substantially increased wattage.
ALL THE POLITICKING and wrangling with various landlords so far has caused Mr. Chahalis’ family much grief already. The struggle has been particularly taxing on Mr. Chahalis’ father, P & G owner and family patriarch, Tom Chahalis, now 73. “He’s been nervous as hell, very, very stressed out,” the younger barkeep said. “It’s a tough business. … I know I don’t want to be doing this when I’m 73.”
The elder operator can find solace in the fact that the family legacy will survive, at least in some fashion.
“When he saw the new space, the first thing, he’s like, ‘Oh my God, there’s so much room, it’s going to cost so much money to fix up.’ And I’m like, ‘Dad, look, there’s sconces in all the walls, we checked all the electricals, there are four central-air heating units. …’ After that, he said, ‘This is really nice.’”
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