Friday, February 6, 2009

Stefan Lutak: 1920-2009

I am sad to report that Stefan Lutak, long-time proprietor of the Holiday Cocktail Lounge, has passed away.

For those who wish to pay their respects to Mr. Lutak, there will be a viewing on Sunday at Peter Jarema from 2:00 - 5:00 and from 7:00 - 9:00--an appropriate choice, as the funeral home is a neighborhood survivor since 1906. (Funeral services are Monday.)


photo sent in by Mike Marvin

Stefan Lutak was born in Ukraine in 1920. During World War II, he fought with the Soviet Army. Remembering Stalingrad he recalled to the NY Press, "The winter was terrible. The ice came from your mouth. We were sleeping in the snow, nothing to eat. Two, three, four days, a whole week with empty stomach. Kitchen? Gone! They killed the horses. Then they killed the cooks. We ate leaves, and in November the leaves were gone."

Stefan arrived by boat in New York City in 1949. He played soccer. With his wife he opened the Holiday on St. Marks Place in 1965. He served drinks to Allen Ginsberg and W.H. Auden. His bar became a favorite all across the city. The New York Times called it one of the best dives in town, "an eloquent rejoinder to a slick, rich, ever-changing city."


Stop in tonight & hoist a few in memory of Stefan

When Stefan took ill recently, the bar was closed for weeks and people were worried about its fate. We got some hope back when the beloved dive opened again. Now, with its captain gone, who knows what will become of the place?

Update here

28 comments:

Poutalicious said...

Good post.

Eden Bee said...

Fuck. This indeed, sucks.

julie wilson said...

I'm so sad. The Holiday was where I first drank (1978) and Stefan was always very good to me.

EV Grieve said...

Wow...I thought he'd outlast us all.

My best to his family.

And I hope the Holiday will live on...

esquared said...

Double Fuck and Shit.

"Now, with its captain gone, who knows what will become of the place?" --indeed.

I'm definitely stopping by tonight. See you guys there.

Lenge said...

I'm so sad to hear this news. The Holiday has been an integral part of my life for over 20 years. I never knew his name-- I was too intimidated to try to talk to him-- but he was always kind, in a gruff sort of way, and a fixture of E. Village life. He will be missed.

ShatteredMonocle said...

Bad couple of weeks, Peeler Man, Lux Interior, now this!

I can think of a few other NYC icons I'd rather see die.

Anonymous said...

Stefan and his caustic remarks! He always had a comeback, too. This is sad news, indeed. To me, he and the Holiday were a NY institution. And a big part of my life. My condolences to his loved ones. RIP.

LJ said...

I am so sad to hear this. I never thought his health might be the reason they hadn't really been open as of late. He will definitely be missed in the neighborhood. In a city of lots of random bars, many turning over frequently, it's so sad to see part of the local character move on.

I hope they keep it open, even if it'll never be quite the same.

Anonymous said...

first bar i was ever thrown out of, 25 years ago! this is sad for ny.

tiny banquet committee said...

Just a few days after we lost Lux Interior, Stefan pops his clogs. I am fervently hoping we don't lose Holiday too. Too many interchangable crap wine bars and prissy restaurants and not enough Holidays.

King C. said...

I hope Stefan is throwing the chairs around in the back room of some bar in heaven. RIP.

hntrnyc said...

First drink in the holiday, june 16th 1982, it was the night that john honeyman scott (pretenders guitarist) died. over the years i was there on various occasions. i never had a problem with Mr. Stephan as we were both Ukrainians and the native tongue could always coax a round when he didn't feel like serving anyone.
I have a good friend living in Sweden and whenever he comes into town we meet up at the Holiday, need to let him know that Stephan is gone.........

julie wilson said...

looking at the picture of Stefan again I realize I see him in my mind as a robust 20 year younger man. I found the picture you have shocking. I have not stepped into the Holiday since , I think 2001. What about his right hand man that I used to call Lurch?

Steve Metz said...

I agree with shattered monacle. People like Stefan and Lux Interior made NYC great to me. Lux and Ivy left NYC a long time a go but to me they and The Fast are always playing at Maxs. And Stefan will always be pouring the drinks.

Anonymous said...

So sad. So many great memories in there for the past 20 or so years. Looking forward to making some more. Let's all hope they stay open.

Karate Boogaloo said...

Julie - I believe the guy you are referring to is/was named Walter. If I'm not mistaken.

Johnny Trash said...

I am Johnny Trash..the Holiday was my office from the early 80's...the shadow ghost on the walls..endless Jack Daniels..I once ran a $300 bar tab...the "painting on the wall!!" I may be the last one in it Someone please find out its future!!
Soo sadden
my email mabnmex@yahoo.com

Spyder Darling said...

Rest In Peace Stepahn, cheers to a life well lived. It was an honor to be your customer for over thirty years.

dale said...

Remember the little black dog that used to be there? Poor thing must have really inhaled a lot of cigarette smoke in his brief life. Isn't he in the painting, too?

John P said...

So sad,,Stefan was great, I loved when he used to sing. What a surreal place it could be sometimes. Please don't remove the "ghosts" (worn into the walls at the booths by the tens of thousands of patrons over the years)when you do the "spit polish". Hey Johnny T, whatever happened to the tophat you were wearing in the painting? I think Daryl the guy who painted it has passed too. Makes me feel a little old to see New York as I knew it "vanishing" before my eyes. btw..great blog, but you forgot to mention one of the coolest things about Stefan, he played for the Ukraine in the 1936 Olympics!! How cool is that?! RIP Stefan.

Anonymous said...

I'm Chris. I used to wear a black porkpie hat and spent many hours, days, weeks sitting at the bar during the late 90's and enjoyed Stefan's "history lecrtures." Stefan told me many stories about his adventures in Europe, both as an athlete and as a soldier.
One thing I've noticed is that his posted birth-year (1920) was not what he repeatedly told me (1919). I assume that this was due to the chaos in Europe after WWII (i.e. Third Man). Although Stefan was certainly a proud Ukrainian from the village of Bukovina (not to be confused with the bar around the corner on 7th St), he referred many times to "that fuckin (Pres. Woodrow) Wilson," who redrew the European borders after the First War and placed his home village into Romania. Since after his service in the Red Army, he fought alongside his brother as an anti-Soviet Ukrainian Partisan. While the Russians were kind enough to kick the Nazis out of Ukraine they overstayed their welcome (as was their wont). Since the Soviets later sent Stefan's brother to Siberia, he clearly could not risk being repatriated to the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. That explanation for the discrepancy in birth dates makes sense to me.
All that aside, I'll miss the old man. Even his singing. Fuck it, especially his singing.
Good night Stefan.

Anonymous said...

What a great place. I miss the Holiday and Stefan will be missed by so many. Rest in Peace Stefan. Jeff Lawrence

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks everyone for sharing your memories of stefan and the holiday. it's great to read them all together.

Anonymous said...

Hi. This is Al Mitchell. I saw Stephan last MAy when I was visiting NYC and his dry sense of humor was still intact. A wizard, a master, a silver tongued devil. Loved that guy, started drinking there in 1980. My condolences to Paul and Roman, also two great guys. Long live the good old days, they ruled.
AL

kittyinpink99 said...

A NYC Icon; a traditional and dedicated family man; a beautiful and nuturing soul to those who knew him well; a hardworking and honorable human being. Stefan will be truly missed and forever remembered; his beautiful Family will forever be blessed because they are cut from the same dedicated threads that bind them all together. Many lives have been touched by the sincerity and beautiful soul of Stefan. Rest your head in sweet peace Stefan, you have earned your wings.

john p said...

what an honest, big hearted guy he was. let me and a friend sleep at the bar till morning. I had gone away for a year and he'd saved my cd player under the bar and gave it to me when i reappeared. all the soul of manhattan seems to be draining away. I should have asked for 3 vodkas before you left the bar. peace stephan.

R.Lutak said...

Would like thank everyone who attended, contributed,socialized, was over servered, lived or in anyway uplifted and made it the Holiday Cocktail Lounge. The last three years have been extremely difficult since my dad Stefan left[February 3, 2009]. This was not an easy decision or done out of haste. But the reality of the matter is the Holiday as everyone really knew[knows] was really Stefan. Once he passed, it was never going to be the same. No new employees or managing was going to change that. As I said in yesterday's NYTimes interview"I am going to finally get a chance to grieve" without the responsability of maintaining the "Holiday" legacy. As stated, I had no intention of leaving my mark on it since this was really my mother and father's legacy. And can rest knowing that they are the ones who will always be identified as the legitimate face and spirit of the Holiday. There will be no "new" Holiday since I would not allow[legally] to use any combination of the Holiday Cocktai Lounge. It ends with my dad as sole face to always be associated with "HIS" Holiday. Thank You for all the memories and some of the nightmares. The Lutak Family