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Legendary Sloppy Joe's Bar, Closed During Cuban Revolution, Reopens In Havana

posted 12 Apr 2013, 15:36 by Mpelembe   [ updated 12 Apr 2013, 15:37 ]

Legendary Havana bar Sloppy Joe's, that was popular with Hollywood stars during U.S. prohibition, reopens its doors after a revamp.

HAVANACUBA (APRIL 12, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Decades after the 1965 closure of Sloppy Joe's Bar shook bohemian Cubans and propelled it into legendary status, the Havana bar reopened its doors on Friday (April 12).

Immortalized in film and included in anecdotes told by famous artists, businessmen and even American gangsters who visited it, Sloppy Joe's first became popular during U.S. prohibition when Americans trafficking alcohol turned to Cuba.

On Friday, young employees dressed in black and bright orange served drinks, sandwiches and varied tapas to clients who enjoyed the reopening of the emblematic meeting place.

"To restore Sloppy Joe's is to return to Havana the place where artists, ball players, travellers used to meet. Giving back Sloppy Joe's is like placing a stone on such important restoration work," said Havana's official historian, Eusebio Leal.

Founded in 1920 by Spanish immigrant Jose Garcia, the bar was nationalised shortly after Fidel Castro took power in 1959 and then went into a long decline before closing its doors 30 years ago.

The main attraction-- an 18-metre-long bar-- was immortalized in the 1959 British film "Our Man in Havana" staring Alec Guinness and Maureen O'Hara. After restoration, it has maintained its original structure and colour.

Foreign tourists, Cubans and former clients arrived to the legendary bar and were anxious to see the restoration works.

"I want to get to know this place. It's a new place my grandparents told me about," said an unidentified Cuban customer.

Barbara from New York has been travelling to Cuba for the last 10 years and said she was delighted to visit the bar after restoration.

"It was coincidence that I heard Sloppy Joe's was opening and I couldn't believe it so I'm here right now waiting to see the real thing once again. So it's like the past and present together," she said excitedly.

In 2007, the Office of the Historian in Havana, led by Leal, started restoring the bar with the help of photos and material donated by people related to the bar, both living on the island and abroad.

"To receive support we have had from the family in Cayo Hueso and from people who have provided photos, objects and things (for restoration purposes), the purpose is not commercial, it's not to make the most of a name but to have the opportunity to recover such an important memory for Havana," said Leal.

Sloppy Joe's was visited by cinema stars such as Errol FlynnJohn Wayne,Spencer TracyClark Gable as well as the Mexican comedian Mario Moreno, known as "Cantiflas."