Informacion economica sobre Cuba

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

By Rosa Tania Valdes

HAVANA | Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:22pm EDT

(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.

"What interests me is to work to restore to my city, to our city, a

whole series of things that form part of its memory. … To restore

Sloppy Joe's is to return to Havana the place where artists, baseball

players, tourists all met," said Eusebio Leal, who heads the Historian

of Havana's office.

"The final objective is not commercial, it's not to exploit a name. The

opportunity it brings is to recover an important memory of Havana," Leal



Among Sloppy Joe's most famous attractions was the bar itself,

stretching 60 feet. It was immortalized in the 1959 movie "Our Man in

Havana", starring Alec Guinness and based on the novel by British author

Graham Greene – one of Sloppy Joe's former patrons.

Parts of the original bar were preserved and restored to original splendor.

Ernesto Iznaga, Sloppy Joe's new manager, said the bar will offer a wide

range of the food and drink it served in its heyday, "specifically the

food, such as dips, tapas, and sandwiches."

"I'm super happy. I passed by here every day. I followed the restoration

from the beginning and I came today because I wanted to see how it

looks," said an emotional José Luis Rodríguez, 80, the former owner of a

nearby bar that was also nationalized in the '60s.

"It's exactly as it was. These tiles they have put down are the same

color as before. Everything is the same, and although they altered the

entrance and put in air-conditioning, they kept the same drinks and

snacks, which is what the place was famous for," said Rodriguez, who did

not eat or drink because the foreign currency prices were beyond his

pension in Cuban pesos.

(Editing by David Adams and Jim Loney)

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