Vestige of 1960s Greenwich Village painted over

The painted over old sign for the Fat Black Pussycat Theater is shown on a site on Minetta St. in Manhattan, Tuesday, June 7, 2011. The location was taken over by Panchito's Restaurant in the 1970's and last week, Panchito's painted the sign bright red. The coffee bar had been a beatnik haven, where some claim a young Bob Dylan wrote "Blowin' in the Wind". (AP Photo/Jake Coyle)

June 8, 2011 2:33:54 PM PDT
A vestige of 1960s Greenwich Village has been painted over by a Mexican restaurant, prompting an outcry from New York City preservation advocates.

There's a battle brewing over past and present in Greenwich Village, and it's being fought with a paint brush.

For more than 50 years the faded black letters above Panchito's Mexican Restaurant read "Fat Black Pussycat Theatre."

Last week, the owner put on a fresh coat of red paint over the sign.

Some residents are stunned saying this was home to a musical milestone.

"How can you forget here? They've been trying to get us out of here restaurants come and go," said "Robbie" a Greenwich Village resident.

"By many accounts this is where Bob Dylan wrote 'Blowin' in the Wind," one of the greatest songs of the 20th century. Many of the great musical performance of the 1960's got their start there, Mama Cass, Richie Havens, even Bill Cosby's non-musical performance performed there," said Andrew Berman, the Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, "Unfortunately due to a lack of landmark status, which we've been fighting for years, the owner was able to just paint it over on a whim with no notice and no explanation whatsoever."

He believes this is exactly why the Landmarks Preservation Commission needs to create a historic district from West 4th to the Avenue of the Americas and LaGuardia Place then stretching to Watts Street.

But Panchito's owner gave Eyewitness News a little background on the building over the phone.

Bob Englehardt took over the building in 1963 and says the Bob Dylan connection is simply a rumor.

The 84-year-old says the theatre was full of drug dealing, fighting and pedophiles.

He says it was a cesspool that shouldn't be landmarked.

"It would put a straight jacket on the entire area allowing the PC police and taste Nazis to run everything," Englehardt said.

At this point it's just a war of words, because the sign can't be recovered under the coats of bright red paint.

But it has some choosing sides and asking, what's worth saving?