Holiday Cocktail Lounge’s Bar and Awning Will Stay, and Long Lost Mural Revealed

holiday 1Noah Fecks Mural from Ali Baba

Barbara Sibley, the owner of La Palapa who in February took over the adjacent Holiday Cocktail Lounge space, tells The Local she plans to preserve elements of the iconic dive, including the awning and the horseshoe bar. Not only that, but she’s restoring elements of the cocktail lounge that came before it.

Ms. Sibley said that the removal of a mirror and deer’s head from behind the bar revealed a mural belonging to the Holiday’s predecessor, which she believes was called the Ali Baba lounge. The 6-by-4-foot mural, as you can see above, shows a dancer being observed by men and harem girls.

holiday 2Noah Fecks

Ms. Sibley said she believes the mural dates back to the 1930s, since, according to the bar’s previous owner, Roman Lutak, the Ali Baba was open from the 1930s to the 1950s. Before that, she said Department of Buildings records show, it was a beauty salon. (A peepholed door behind the bar’s phone booth led Ms. Sibley to speculate that the beauty salon may have also been a speakeasy during Prohibition.)

The mural, which Ms. Sibley plans to preserve, hasn’t been the only surprising find: the sagging ceilings were stripped to reveal two inches of dirt insulation, and the walls have been peeled back to their original green stucco and, in the back, flocked wallpaper.

IMG-20120612-00134Barbara Sibley Uncovered wallpaper.

“It’s funny, because I studied anthropology,” said Ms. Sibley. “This is really an archeological dig, because you keep finding things.” The cloth canopy over the bar, she discovered, once bore green and red stripes before they were painted over.

Today, workers removed an air conditioning duct from the old Holiday. “It was so dirty,” said Ms. Sibley. “You can imagine the cigarette smoke that was in there.” And next, they’ll remove the plywood floor, installed four years ago, in order to get down to the original wood.

“The idea is to return as much as possible to the way it was,” said Ms. Sibley, assuring that the semicircular bar will be preserved. The outside awning will likely remain as well, though the name Holiday will probably be removed out of respect to the bar’s late owner, Stefan Lutak.

IMG-20120612-00136Barbara Sibley

So what will the new establishment’s name be when it opens, likely in September? Ms. Sibley said she had a working title, but didn’t want to reveal it because the concept and menu were evolving with each discovery. But she said of the concept, “It’s acknowledging in a lot of ways the gangstery history as well as the poetic history” of the space. (W.H. Auden was famously a regular at the Holiday, and Ms. Sibley said that Frank Sinatra’s manager was rumored to hang out at the Ali Baba.)

Meanwhile, Ms. Sibley continues to find out more about those dual histories. “Everybody who walks by the Holiday has to tell you their story,” she said. “That alone should be a book.”