Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Goodbye Holiday

We got a heartfelt comment this week from the Lutak family about the end of the Holiday Cocktail Lounge.

Roman Lutak writes, "Would like thank everyone who attended, contributed, socialized, was over served, 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."

Stefan, by Mike Marvin

He continued, "As I said in yesterday's NY Times interview 'I am going to finally get a chance to grieve' without the responsibility 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 Cocktail 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."

As you may know by now, the Holiday Cocktail Lounge has been taken over by the founder of the Pirate Booty snack company. He and Barbara Sibley, the owner of neighboring restaurant La Palapa, will be turning the space into a restaurant that "will echo the restaurants that have disappeared, with a menu offering those foods New Yorkers 'miss' like Shepard’s Pie and fish 'n’ chips."

Sibley told Grub Street, "We're going to try to preserve as much of the history as possible."

at La Palapa

I hope that's sincere. We've heard it so many times--and been disappointed so many times by owners who then gut our favorite places, and essentially bar the door with extravagant prices and obnoxious clientele. People like to say you can't turn the city into a museum, but you can preserve its treasures and still thrive. It happened for Eisenberg's--why not the Holiday?

La Palapa is in the building where W.H. Auden once lived--Sibley put a plaque on the front of the restaurant stating this. Auden was also a famous regular at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge, and Sibley is said to be a fan of the poet. She once told the New York Times, "we joke that the spirit of his martinis runs through [La Palapa's] margaritas.''

Auden on St. Mark's Place, Richard Avedon

Let's hope that Ms. Sibley and the new owner take into consideration the community that supported the Holiday through the decades. And may they at least opt to keep the wonderful semi-circular bar whose soft-worn wood once propped the elbows of the great poet. That treasure would be too much to lose from a neighborhood already awash in grief over so many losses.


  1. My Ukrainian dad used to drink there many a time in the 60s, to the chagrin of my mother. But there were many Ukrainian drinking places in those days. The bars of 1st Ave and Ave A were nightly loaded with Ukrainian drinkers. But hardly any Ukrainians left there today, so of course the area is dead (or dying).

  2. Barbara Sibley is a good egg.

  3. For the historical significance of WH Auden...he lived in 77 St.Marks..Stefan knew him personally...also the plack that is on LaPallappa is a replacement. The original one[3 by 3 bronze] is in the New York Historical Society on permanent loan from me...when renovations were done on 77...the present landlord was throwing it out..I rescued it and contacted Barbra Diamondstein...donated it...believe Village Voice did a piece when it occured...also had contacted Barney Rosset publisher of Auden and Sam concern fans could find its whereabouts...the contribution and memories will continue to flood..which just keeps the Holiday alive as more than just a bar.

  4. Once again, some snot-nosed entrepreneur will be taking over an NYC space, robbing it's soul and in exchange installing something that will further devolve what this city is really about. In the face of all of this 'progress' we are really moving backward. When renovations happened to 77 St. Marks 10 or 15 years ago, there already was an easily visible plaque commemorating that it was once the address of WH Auden. The building was refaced with and ugly generic design, and the plaque removed. Now the plaque is hardly visible. In fact I had no idea there was a replacement plaque in place until I saw the photo you posted. That plaque, by the way, pales in comparison to the larger bronze plaque that was originally there. Who's kidding who here? This speaks volumes about how they see their newly acquired space and how they feel about the people that once claimed physical and spiritual ownership of it in the past. In other words, they don't give a fuck!!

  5. Roman, thanks so much for writing. i have long wondered what happened to that original Auden plaque--i missed seeing it, but i'm glad to know you rescued it.

  6. "We're going to try to preserve as much of the history as possible."

    I too hope those words are sincere. And I agree about the bar, it would be great if that remained in the space.

  7. From The Fall of Rome to the Fall of Holiday, from Lullaby to Pirate Booty...


    Check out the video I just dropped...Contact me for any info...or to collaborate on a project...I seem to share your sentiments about an evaporating culture...Let's lock some subjects down before they die or are turned into Dunkin Donuts...

  9. A lovely note from Roman. I'm glad that he shared all this.

  10. @anonymous #2: Did you even read what you're commenting on? Mr. Lutak states clearly that The Holiday was Stefan and Stefan is no longer with us, therefore there is no more Holiday, and there never will be again. He won't allow it to happen. There is no alternative to change in this instance.

  11. i am from the 1st group of new yorkers. edmond white described as born here, & taking it for granted. i had no idea of the history of some of the EV buildings. it is the newer new yorkers (80s& 90s) who have a better sense than i have. what a tragedy to take down a plaque. & those "avenue of americas" buildings on astor place?? what happened to zoning? where does it end? thought we had a seven story rule in some areas. why not put these places where they belong? all along the e.90s & york? or stay in midtown. i am not happy today. lets do a post of somethings that will be the same. what would jackie say?? thanks "J".

  12. Thanks for the memories Roman. You are a gracious, honest and lovely man. My hats off to you and Stefan.

  13. I remember the Holiday from way back in the early 60's when a blonde woman was I think the manager.
    I could see the Holiday from the window of my father's store "Poultry in Parts" across the street at the corner of St. Mark's and 1st ave. where I worked after school in the Bronx.

  14. I honed my drinking skill at The Holiday in th early 80's while in HS. Me and my friends amongst them future Beastie Boys the girls in Luscious Jackson and a few of the yet to be formed Cro Mags. I not only had a bar tab there at 16 but also borrowed money from Stefan and Roman as well as Walter the lanky sarcastic doorman who let anyone in with a fake ID as long as they were taller then the bar. I spotted Billy idol, Johnny Lydon and several other punk rock hero's getting loopy there and squired many a woman in this spot.
    I discovered my go to combo of White label and Heiniken here and basically broke every rule known the man under the roof of the legendary Holiday cocktail lounge yet always was welcomed back with open arms. What a time for NY and what a amazing dive bar. Rest In Power!

    Dante Ross


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