Havana restores legendary 20th century bar, Sloppy Joe’s


Havana : Sloppy Joe’s, one of the legendary Havana bars of the 20th century for its bohemian clientele, its long bar and famous customers like Ernest Hemingway and Spencer Tracy, has reopened its doors after almost half a century in ruins thanks to a painstaking reconstruction aimed at giving the city back some important memories.

Support TwoCircles

Inaugurated in 1917 by Jose Abeal, a Spanish storekeeper, the bar was for decades a hot spot for American tourists and a symbol of where it was all happening in Havana, but unlike other famous bars like the Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio, it closed down in 1965 and time destroyed it.

The Office of the Historian, directed by Eusebio Leal, was entrusted with developing a complex process of restoration based on old photos and with the cooperation of people, including some in the US, who could supply information, anecdotes and objects related to the old bar.

Its spectacular 18-meter black mahogany bar, the longest that existed in Cuba, posed one of the biggest problems for restorers.

Stories about the bar in its heyday indicated that it was made up of three parts, one of which was “miraculously” recovered and from it the carpenters were able to build a similar bar, also of mahogany, with space for 25 stools.

Other details the restorers were careful to reproduce were the typical windows and the shelves along the walls exhibiting dozens of liquors from around the world, as well as the preparation of the extensive menu of sandwiches, cocktails and liquors of all kinds that were served at the downtown Havana locale.

At the bar, now hung with Cuban flags, were seated at one time or another such celebrities as writer Ernest Hemingway and actors Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Cantinflas.