Iconic Tío Pepe sign is returned to Madrid’s Puerta del Sol

Popular demand sees 76-year-old sherry ad put back after new building owner had it removed

Workers prepare a section of the Tío Pepe sign before it is lifted into place. / LUIS SEVILLANO

Tío Pepe is back. The famous neon sign that crowned Puerta del Sol, 1 for 76 years will top another building in the same square, said the ad’s owner, the sherry winery González Byass.

The huge sherry bottle – which resembles a human wearing a wide-brimmed Córdoba hat and short bullfighter jacket, and is holding a guitar – was taken down in April 2011 and kept in storage. The building was going to be refurbished and reopened as a hotel, the media first reported; but later it transpired that it would be occupied by an Apple store, and the popular sign would not be returned to its place as promised.

But a popular initiative collected more than 50,000 online signatures to petition authorities to bring Tío Pepe back to Sol, of which it had become an integral part after nearly eight decades.

Eventually, the owners of Puerta del Sol, 11 negotiated with the winery from Jerez de la Frontera, and agreed that Tío Pepe would go atop this other building, just 130 meters from its original location.

Tío Pepe is looking slimmer and younger after an intense makeover

Tío Pepe is looking slimmer and younger following an intense makeover by a specialized company named Spoluz, whose workers sandpapered and repainted the bottle and the 45 letters that go with it, “Tío Pepe, sol de Andalucía embotellado (Andalusia’s sun in a bottle) and “González Byass.” The sign also got new neon lights and a lighter structure.

There is a precedent for a billboard being taken down, and then being brought back by popular demand. The Toro de Osborne, a looming black silhouette of a bull that lines many of Spain’s major freeways, was originally an advertisement for a drink from Jerez, this time a brandy made by the Osborne winery. Since the late 1990s, the bulls have been considered a national cultural symbol and have been allowed to stay, although the winery’s name has been removed from them.

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