Once Havana's most famous bar, Sloppy Joe's reopens after 50 years

Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:22pm EDT
 
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By Rosa Tania Valdes

HAVANA (Reuters) - Sloppy Joe's, one of Havana's most famous pre-revolutionary bars and a former haunt of American tourists and film stars like John Wayne, Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, reopened its doors on Friday, almost 50 years after it closed.

Waiters dressed in black and orange uniforms served drinks and tapas to a mix of tourists and Cubans, some of whom had waited years for the reopening of the historic watering hole.

"I'm very excited ... Sloppy Joe's is open. I can't believe it. The past and present have been united," said Barbara, an American tourist from New York who has been visiting Havana for the last ten years and followed the bar's much anticipated restoration.

Sloppy Joe's Bar was founded by Spanish immigrant Jose Garcia, who capitalized on the U.S. Prohibition era from 1920-1933 when American tourists flocked to Havana to drink and gamble to their heart's content.

The bar was nationalized along with most businesses in the early 1960s after Fidel Castro's revolutionary forces took power and languished until it closed in 1965.

The restoration, undertaken by the office of the Historian of Havana, began in 2007.

The office is in charge of a massive remake of Havana's historic Old City, considered one of the best preserved jewels of colonial architecture in the Caribbean, as well as a lucrative tourist attraction for Cuba's cash-strapped, communist-led government.

The dilapidated building was painstakingly restored using period photos and materials donated by people who were associated with the bar, both in Cuba and abroad.   Continued...

 
People sit in the newly opened Sloppy Joe's bar in Havana April 12, 2013. Sloppy Joe's, one of Havana's most famous pre-revolutionary bars and a former haunt of American tourists and film stars like John Wayne, Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, reopened its doors on Friday, almost 50 years after it closed. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan