Photos: Last Night at Holiday Cocktail Lounge

Photos: Vivienne Gucwa

Getting a table or a bar stool at the Holiday Cocktail Lounge Saturday night was nearly impossible. The 47-year-old dive was wall-to-wall with regulars, there to pay respects on its final night.

“I came here before I was legal,” said Angela Martenez, who frequented the Holiday in the 1990s. “The drinks were strong and cheap. And the little twinkly Christmas lights were friendly, and that’s what I needed in my life at the time.”

From all corners of the city, former East Villagers returned to the Holiday for one last beer.

The Last Night At Holiday Cocktail Lounge 6Vivienne Gucwa Jagger Potter and Matt O’Connor.

“I haven’t been here in 10 years,” said Zoe Schneider, a clothing designer and native New Yorker who grew up coming to the bar with her older sisters. “I live in Harlem now and have two kids. Change is always hard. It’s hard to see the things you grew up with disappear.”

Ms. Schneider fondly recalled pumping endless quarters into the jukebox to play “Monkey Man” by the Rolling Stones, as well as the occasional fight with Stefan Lutak, who bought the bar in 1965 and died in 2009.

For others, the memories were a little hazy.

Jeffrey Weaver, who lived on Sixth Street in the 1990s, said, “I attribute my lack of memories to the Holiday Cocktail Lounge. It’s mostly just colors and shapes.” He said that in the years since he visited the bar, his life had become more about family and less about drinks with friends. His tastes had also evolved.

“Back then I think I drank Budweiser, or domestic,” he said, gesturing at a dark frothy beer on the table in front of him. “But then I got gradually snobby.”

The Last Night At Holiday Cocktail Lounge 9-Vivienne Gucwa Angela Martenez and Joe Foley.

Mr. Weaver first started coming to the bar with his friend Matt O’Connor. When Mr. O’Connor moved to the city from Boston, Mr. Weaver met him at the Port Authority and brought him straight to the Holiday.

“It was one of my first New York City bars,” Mr. O’Connor said. “It’s going to be really strange walking by and not seeing the awning.”

Paul Latimer said that in the 1970s, he and his friend forged their baptismal certificates to get in to what was then an “old man’s bar.” He added,  “The drinking age was 18 then, and you know, we were kind of tall. It was a simpler time.”

Mr. Latimer, who still lives in the East Village, said that by the 1980s the watering hole had become so popular that it was packed on the weekends, and locals couldn’t get in.

The Last Night At Holiday Cocktail Lounge 29-2Vivienne Gucwa Left: Zoe Schneider, Jeffrey Weaver, and Zannah Marsh.

For many, when the Holiday Cocktail Lounge awning comes down, the neighborhood will never feel quite the same. But for some, the bar where you could be anyone and wear anything and always feel at home closed a long time ago.

“Even after I moved away, I always came back,” Joe Foley said. “I guess you would find this place in Williamsburg or Bushwick now. It’s just moved.”

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 31, 2011

An earlier version of this post misidentified Angela Martenez as a onetime resident of the East Village and misspelled the surname of Matt O’Connor.