Monday, January 19, 2009

Holiday Survives

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.

14 comments:

EV Grieve said...

"Sprucing it up" and "no clear plan" ...hearing that gives me the fear. But I'm damn happy the Holiday is back. Even if it's just for Fridays and Saturdays right now.

KnicksBasketballNY said...

"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...

^ I find this interesting because that is around the same time my mother left town. But instead of moving to New Jersey she moved to Washington DC (where my father is from and whom she married a few years later) thus making me a native Washingtonian for life as opposed to a native New Yorker.

There are lots of native New Yorkers living down here especially in the northern Virginia suburbs.

rh said...

"Sprucing it up"? NO! What makes The Holiday so special is that it hasn't been touched since 1965.

I'm glad to hear that Stefan and The Holiday are both ok for now.

Anonymous said...

"Weekends only" could very well mean "on life support," but for now, I'm happy to know that we can all enjoy a few more rounds at the Holiday.

Thanks to you, and all the city bloggers, for keeping an eye on things. Thanks too, to Stefan, for keeping the Holiday running all these years. Wishing him a peaceful retirement.

baroness v.o. said...

Heartwarming dress code violation twist! Love it.

Anonymous said...

I remember going to the Holiday when I was about 16, so it must have been around 1979 or 1980, after rumours that they didn't card and had $1 drinks. There were 4 of us, and we each had 2 screwdrivers when we noticed we were the only ones in the bar and the bartender had disappeared for at least 5 minutes. So what did we do? We ran for it and ditched out on the bill, which hadn't yet been paid.

As we were just about turning the corner at 1st Ave, the bartender came running outside, yelling after us. We ran for a few more blocks up 1st Ave, in our high heel boots, leopard coats, tight black pants, dyed purple hair.

I was so embarrassed about such a stupid thing that I never went back in to this day. And I am so embarrassed I have to post this story anonymously.

Jeremiah Moss said...

hey anon, great story details. i'm sure you could make up for it now by going for a few drinks (and paying!)

Spyder Darling said...

Long live the legendary Stefan and may the Holiday Cocktail Lounge's Christmas lights twinkle on for many beers and shots to come!

Anonymous said...

can't tell you how many times we ended up at the Holiday in the 90s. never really packed, and with that untouched atmosphere, it made for an ideal night out; no crass hipsters being obnoxious, just people hanging out and talking and drinking. it was truly a neighborhood bar of the best kind. Now, as a northern virginia resident(!), I search high and low for ANY bar that comes anywhere near this description... I'll be searching the rest of my life, to be sure.

Anonymous said...

I really hate to break this to everyone, but I heard that Stefan passed away Tuesday, February 3. He was 88. It sounds like one of his sons will keep the bar open a few more years in honor of his father.

I spent way too much time in the Holiday during my six years in NYC. I'd try to get in there a few times a week, sometimes four times a week. My favorite bar. Period. Man, I loved that bar and Stefan was a great guy.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thank you--another commenter also mentioned it and the bar confirmed. a sad passing indeed.

jed said...

So, is Holiday still open?

Jeremiah Moss said...

yes, it is open

jed said...

Thanks, Jeremiah. Hopefully folks will patronize the place enough to make this an easy time for Stefan's family. (And keep it open!)