Thursday, April 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Round 2 for Sloppy Joe’s bar, a Havana original

Ernest Hemingway, Alec Guinness, Noel Coward

FILE - In this May 12, 1959, American novelist Ernest Hemingway, left, speaks with actors Alec Guinness, center, and Noel Coward in Sloppy Joe's Bar during the making of Sir Carol Reed's film version of "Our Man in Havana," based on Graham Greene's best seller, in Havana, Cuba. Sloppy Joe's will be reopened in February 2013 by the state-owned tourism company Habaguanex, part of an ambitious revitalization project by the Havana City Historian's Office, which since the 1990's has transformed block after block of crumbling ruins into rehabilitated buildings along vibrant cobblestone streets, giving residents and tourists from all over the chance to belly up to the same bar that served thirsty celebrities like Rock Hudson, Babe Ruth and Ernest Hemingway. (AP Photo, File)

HAVANA — A half-century later, Jose Rafa Malem remembers the balmy breezes blowing through the bar’s arching porticos, the grain of the tall wood stools, the whiff of Pedro Domecq brandy on his father’s breath.

And how could he forget the tangy ground-beef-and-tomato-sauce sandwiches synonymous with what was then one of Havana’s hippest hangouts, playfully dubbed Sloppy Joe’s? “I ate so many, I got tired of them,” said Rafa, a 59-year-old Havana native who grew up to become a bartender.

Soon, Rafa will be able to relive those boyhood memories as the original Sloppy Joe’s reopens in Havana’s historic quarter, giving residents and tourists from all over the chance to belly up to the same bar that served thirsty celebrities such as Rock Hudson, Babe Ruth and Ernest Hemingway.

It’s part of an ambitious revitalization project by the Havana City Historian’s Office, which since the 1990s has transformed block after block of crumbling ruins into rehabilitated buildings along vibrant cobblestone streets.

The effort has helped finance Cuba’s socialist present by drawing tourists fascinated by its pre-socialist past, from colonial palaces of the 18th century to celebrity hangouts of the 1950s.

“For the people of this city, I think it’s very interesting and very important to rescue a place that has so much history and is so recognized around the world,” said Ernesto Iznaga, manager of the born-again Joe’s, which will be run by state-owned tourism concern Habaguanex. “To restore it to how it was before.”

Sloppy Joe’s was founded in 1918 by a Galician immigrant named Jose Abeal Otero who purchased a grocery store in Old Havana after years of tending bar in New Orleans and Miami. Legend has it the sobriquet comes from the place’s grubbiness and Abeal’s American nickname, Joe.

Rafa’s father was a close friend of longtime bartender Fabio Delgado and took his boy there on Sunday afternoons beginning in the late ’50s. During the day, Rafa said, Joe’s was a mellow family joint where kids slurped ice cream and Coca-Cola while mom and dad chatted over more potent spirits.

Employees made sandwiches to order behind the black mahogany bar, polished to a high shine and purportedly once the longest in Latin America at about 59 feet (18 meters).

After dark, the place filled up with Americans on vacation.

Abeal’s affable personality and familiarity with English from his years in the States helped make Joe’s a favorite among tipsy Yanks as far back as the Prohibition era of 1920-1933, along with the nearby El Floridita bar, the reputed birthplace of the daiquiri cocktail, and La Bodeguita del Medio, home of the minty, rum-infused mojito.

As much as any other place in Havana, Joe’s exemplified the island’s lure as a playground for Americans.

“No Havana resident ever went to Sloppy Joe’s,” novelist Graham Greene wrote in his 1958 spy-farce “Our Man in Havana,” ”because it was the rendezvous of tourists.”

It was a stylish clientele compared with the flip-flop and tank-top tourists who swarm Cuba and other Caribbean islands today. One illustrated color postcard from the era shows gentlemen in fedoras and pinstripes laughing on barstools alongside white-gloved ladies. Many were wealthy, famous and looking for a good time.

Frank Sinatra. Ava Gardner. Nat King Cole. The list of patrons reads like a Who’s Who from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Rafa said his own brushes with celebrity included Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and Cuban crooner Benny More. Swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn, who reportedly got in a fistfight at the bar with an overly admiring fan, was enough of a regular that Joe’s named a cocktail for him.

Ownership later passed to another “Joe,” Jose Garcia.

But last call came in 1965 as Fidel Castro’s communist government was nationalizing nearly all private businesses, and Joe’s has been shuttered for nearly five decades.

When restoration work began in 2010, laborers discovered that the wood floors, rotten from humidity and years of neglect, had collapsed into the basement. The wooden bar, meanwhile, had splintered into three pieces.

“It was in ruins,” Iznaga said.

He and his crew have spent two years bringing the watering hole back to life. To keep Joe’s as faithful to the original as possible, they’ve examined historic photos and talked to old-timers like Rafa who remember the way it was.

Messy ground-beef sandwiches will be on the new menu, naturally. Iznaga said they apparently originated as an Abeal family recipe, though others have also claimed they invented them.

Also on the menu will be the Errol Flynn, an icy vodka and tomato-juice concoction garnished with a celery spear. Among the few changes is that the new bar will be air-conditioned for the comfort of sweaty patrons.

At the intersection of Animas and Zulueta streets on a recent morning, dozens of workers buzzed about painting and finishing the bar’s wood surfaces. A Sloppy Joe’s sign hung from the building’s corner, wrapped in plastic and ready to be unveiled for opening day.

Construction setbacks have delayed the re-opening from Iznaga’s original target around New Year’s, and the first fingers of Havana Club rum will likely flow sometime in February.

Across the Florida Straits, where rum-runner and speakeasy operator Joe Russell named his own bar Sloppy Joe’s in the 1930s at the suggestion of his friend Ernest Hemingway, operators are delighted that the original is being reborn.

“It’s exciting because obviously our history is tied into their history,” said Donna Edwards, brand manager at the Key West Joe’s, which recently celebrated 75 years at its current location. “Hemingway and Russell, they would frequent Sloppy Joe’s when they were in Havana. It’s a piece of history, and our history is now coming to life again.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Supervisor candidates square off at forum

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 7 Comments | Gallery

 
Carli takes oath, now Vacaville’s 14th police chief

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Huge jump in Solano median home price

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A1, 5 Comments | Gallery

Donate a car, help build a house

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Solano DA hosts workshop to fight human trafficking

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Fairfield town hall on crime delayed

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 5 Comments

Railway museum offers wine-tasting rides

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
 
Drugs topic of cardiac class

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Weather for April 17, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

 
Fairfield police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun Police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Armed robber was never told to report to prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Body of California man who jumped into river found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Lost sea lion in California found mile from water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Seabird from Atlantic spotted on Alcatraz

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Ex-Bell city leader gets 12 years in prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
California delays decision on protecting gray wolf

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Court rules for environmentalists in water fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Governor calls special session on rainy day fund

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Denver police eye 911 response time after killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Man charged with marathon hoax is held on bail

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Geneva talks on Ukraine face steep hurdles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Pro-Russian insurgents seize armored vehicles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Ferry sinks off South Korea; 6 dead, 290 missing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
NATO ups military presence amid Russian threat

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

.

Opinion

In support of Pam Bertani

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 7 Comments

 
Parenting demands responsibility

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

 
Let’s stop Fairfield’s future thugs

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 8 Comments

Obamacare news you probably missed

By Martin Schram | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoons for April 17, 2014

By Kim Durbin | From Page: A11

.

Living

A lesson in household budgeting

By Chris Erskine | From Page: A2

 
Today in History for April 17, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Community Calendar: April 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Horoscopes for April 17, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Daniel Radcliffe on why New York audiences rock

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Alicia Silverstone out with book ‘Kind Mama’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Jenny McCarthy announces engagement on ‘The View’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Ailing Malcolm Young taking break from AC/DC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Disney Channel’s ‘Jessie’ breaks romantic ground

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Vacaville’s Peralta to wrestle at San Francisco State

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Angels beat A’s 5-4 on Iannetta’s HR in 12th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

MEL, SCAC tangle in hoops all-star games

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

 
Sharks take goalie questions into rematch vs Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Crawford’s 41 points leads Warriors over Nuggets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

IndyCar driver Saavedra fined $10K

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sandoval’s single lifts Giants past Dodgers, 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Officer: Sharper’s DNA found on 1 Arizona victim

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jets sign former Titans RB Chris Johnson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Spieth ready for more after Masters success

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Backup QB Matt Flynn returns to Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Atlanta lands MLS expansion team for 2017

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bucks owner Herb Kohl reaches deal to sell team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sidney Rice agrees to terms with Seahawks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Goodwin helps Suns to 104-99 win over Kings in finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Yellen: Fed stimulus still needed for job market

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Some exempted from minimum wage, increased or not

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Fed survey: Growth picks up across most of US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Bank of America posts loss, hurt by legal charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Google’s 1Q earnings disappoint as ad prices slip

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9