On Saturday, Grieve announced some very good news about the Holiday Cocktail Lounge. Closed for weeks, it was at last reopening. I went by to check it out.
I was told that Stefan is doing okay, but he has retired from bartending. And while there was some talk of "sprucing it up," there is no clear plan for the bar's future. For now, they're open only on Friday and Saturday nights, from 5:00 PM - 1:00 AM.
I'd never noticed it before, but a history of the bar, apparently typewritten in Stefan's voice, is posted on the wall. It's a lovely artifact revealing the lost layers of the neighborhood.
In it, he recalls buying the place in 1965--it had been a bar since 1936 and was, unfathomably, a beauty parlor before that--when the neighborhood was all Italian and his customers were tough guys who played cards and bet on the horses. Then things began to change.
"In 1979," he recalls, "many young people from the suburbs began to move into this area. They like to wear second hand clothes. At the same time neighborhood people were moving to New Jersey or getting old and dying... It was a few years ago also that a lot of 'Punk Rockers,' drinking beer and making noise, began crowding all the time in front of the Deli. People were getting very nervous. One night I invited them all into our bar and they come all the time now and behave very well. I still remember one young man who came in with terrible clothes on. I told him to go home and dress better. His face was red with anger. He left. But you know what, he came back and his clothes were better."
click to enlarge and read
He continues, "Our business is so good now that people wait outside to get in, especially weekends. We don't need to advertise, believe me!"
Stefan is a survivor and so is his Holiday. Let's hope the current culture shift in the East Village doesn't wash it all away.