A bar with a past is its own theater, acts playing out amid spilled drinks, worn counters and aging carpet. It’s authenticity is in its years. No duplicating this. It’s smoky. It’s cozy. There’s a jukebox, of course.
That all of this sits in a free-standing building with a brick facade on Maryland Parkway is championed, a roadside slice of heaven with cheap drinks and velvet wallpaper. But when word got out in March that reality television show Bar Rescue would revamp Champagnes Cafe, leaving (hopefully) in its wake a raging success, fear and anger hit social media with cultural vigilantes dissecting its past, present and future. This is sacred. Take everything else, but leave Champagnes. In fact, just stop it already.
From there it was a waiting game. And then last week, the sign changed. The white Champagne glass tilting amid bubbles on a round red backdrop had been replaced by a contemporary and less celebratory look. Gone also was “Champagnes Cafe” in white scripted font. The new sign, a black backdrop during the day that glows burgundy at night, reads “Champagne’s” (now with an apostrophe) and explains that it’s “Legendary Since 1966.” Why someone would take away the thing that is and replace it with something that says it is floored one friend, a Las Vegas native to whom signs like this are historic landmarks.
There were moments of silence, I’m sure, as others took in the newness blending in with the landscape. Inside, the word “legendary” lights up the top of the bar in glowing bulbs, lest we forget its rich past.