Brooklyn Heights is gearing up for the return of the popular restaurant Armando’s, but the soon-to-be-reopened Italian joint might not be able to hang its famous — some say infamous — neon lobster sign in the landmark district.
The restaurant’s owner, Peter Byros, would like the iconic light to again glow outside his restaurant — as it did for decades before he closed the classic eatery in 2008. But the city Landmark Preservation Commission must first rule if the sign is an appropriate addition — make that re-addition — to the streetscape of historic Montague Street.
The shining light was installed more than 70 years ago, when Armando’s opened in what was then not a historic district. When the area was protected with historic status in 1965, the garish neon sign was grandfathered in.
But when Byros removed it to make way for the now-closed Spicy Pickle sandwich chain, the sign lost its protected status. Now, he’s applied for permission to affix it anew above his bistro, which was 72 years old when it closed.
“I have the sign in storage, all cleaned up,” said a hopeful Byros, who added that he’s “working with city.”
The potential disappearance of the signage briefly inspired an ultimately unsuccessful online drive led by Brooklyn Heights Blog writer Homer Fink to win a special landmark designation for the sign itself.
“It’s a beautiful sign and it lights up the whole block,” Fink said last March. “It’s been here for many decades, so I thought, ‘Why not try to save something as iconic as the lobster?”
But some locals say it’s more of an eyesore than a bright spot.
“It may need to be smaller and it may need to be modernized,” said Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association. “It was sort of a wonderful piece of memorabilia. It spoke of a different era.”
A different era, certainly, but not the late 1800s/early 1900s style that the Landmarks Preservation Commission protects when it made Brooklyn Heights the city’s first historic district.
The city has not yet scheduled a hearing for Armando’s, but it has received an application from Byros to be considered. Community Board 2 will also be provide an advisory opinion on the restaurant’s application.
With or without the prominent sign, Byros is enthusiastic about rejoining the Heights dining scene
“The restaurant is going to be the same, but a little better,” he told The Brooklyn Paper.