Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

In Memoriam – Stefan Lutak, 1920-2009

Stefan Lutak, the indomitable and ageless proprietor of the legendary New York East Village dive bar the Holiday Lounge passed away last week after a brief illness. He was 89. Born in the Ukraine in 1920, Lutak fought for the Russians against the Nazis in World War II and came to the US four years after the war ended. He and his wife took over the Holiday in 1965. Originally a neighborhood workingman’s bar, it had its share of celebrity regulars, W.H. Auden and Shelley Winters among them. With its minimal, no-nonsense decor, dim lighting, and the laconic Lutak (later joined by his sons) serving up cheap, strong drinks, it was only a matter of time before it became a popular punk rock hangout.

 

According to Lutak, the space was originally a beauty parlor, converted to a bar in 1936. Throughout the years, the bar has barely changed, prices included. One not-so-secret habit shared by many New York musicians (and non-musicians) was to order a Bacardi 151 and coke, which Lutak served at the same price as a regular Bacardi and coke and which would get you drunk twice as fast. During slow periods, it often seemed that Lutak was keeping the bar open simply to keep himself in alcohol: the man had an ironclad constitution, operating with seemingly undiminished capacity from early afternoon til closing time despite being visibly under the influence.

 

In a very encouraging and unexpected turn of events, Lutak’s sons (who also own the building) are keeping the iconic East Village spot open, at least for the present time. If there ever was a time to patronize this place, now is that time.

 

“Over the years we have become close to the regulars and losing one is like losing an old friend,” Lutak is quoted in Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. Stefan Lutak, wherever you are, thank you for your hospitality, your willingness to turn a blind eye to innumerable indiscretions and for being a crucial part of countless delirious evenings forever lost to memory. You were more of a friend than you’ll ever know. Our sincere condolences to the Lutak family.

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February 9, 2009 Posted by | Culture, New York City, obituary | , , , | Leave a comment