Burnaby to save Lost in the 50's neon sign

Brian Tahririha is pleased that the city of Burnaby is buying and restoring the neon sign for his Edmonds
Brian Tahririha is pleased that the city of Burnaby is buying and restoring the neon sign for his Edmonds' burger stand. He's been operating Lost in the 50s Drive In since last summer.

The landmark "arrow" neon sign at the Lost in the 50's Drive-In restaurant will remain a part of Edmonds after Burnaby council approved its purchase and restoration Monday.

As with most local neon signs, it is owned by the sign company that originally built it, or in this case, Neon Sign Crafters, which acquired the assets of the original builder, Neonette Sign Company, according to a city staff report.

Burnaby city hall will pay $2,000 to purchase the sign and up to $7,000 to restore it, including repainting and installing the original neon tubing which is in storage, or replacement of the tubing. The funding will come from city casino revenues.

The city will cover the costs of the ongoing maintenance, estimated at $150 a month, with the lessee of the property responsible for the sign's electricity bills and maintenance, repair or replacement of the lexan sign panels.

The 20-foot-tall sign, a curved arrow pointing down at the drive-in eatery, was built in 1961 for the Tomahawk Drive-In Restaurant which opened on the site at 7741 Edmonds St. It was later known as Lindy's Burger and in 1990, it became the Lost in the 50's Drive-In. Burnaby city hall acquired the property in 1975 under the Land Assembly and Development Program.

The sign is a "rare surviving example of neon sign art in the city and is the only historic neon sign remaining in South Burnaby," the report said.

The sign will remain part of the ongoing lease of the restaurant property. If the site is ever redeveloped in future, the report said, council could consider retaining the sign on the site as a civic heritage landmark, relocate it elsewhere in the Edmonds commercial district or lease, sell or dispose of it to another property owner.

Mayor Derek Corrigan noted that the city purchased and restored the swinging girl neon sign on Hastings Street which has become such an important part of the Heights community and this is a similar gesture for the Edmonds community.

"Neon almost doesn't exist anymore because everything's in LED," Corrigan said, calling it an important aspect of our heritage.

As for the funding, he said, the city's "casino funds are dedicated to things like this, and allows us to do it without impacting our day-to-day budget."

Brian Tahririha, current owner of Lost in the 50's, said the sign purchase is "a good idea, the city should have owned this sign from the beginning."

After the property sat vacant for over a year, Tahririha took on the lease of the property and underwent extensive renovations before opening for business last July.

Business has been slow this winter, he said, likely due to the lack of awareness that, unlike the previous operators, he's keeping the restaurant open year round and there is now a small seating area inside. But business is picking up again and the sign fits right in with his business' concept which is heavy on nostalgia.

Customers talk about the sign "all the time, actually," he said. "They stand and take their pictures with it."

Coun. Colleen Jordan noted that there are no photos in the city's records of what the neon sign originally looked like back when the restaurant was known as the Tomahawk. She asked that anyone with such photos contact Burnaby city hall.

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