Sleepy Joe

(Herman’s Hermits) – Sloppy Joes bar – Havana

Val and I had visited both Sloppy Joe bars in Key West, oblivious to the fact that they derived their name from the original in Havana. The first Sloppy Joe bar in Key West opened in December 1933 (on the day prohibition was repealed), while the Havana bar opened in 1917. Both the Havana and Key West bars were frequented by American celebrities like Errol Fynn, Frank Sinatra, W.C. Fields and – inevitably – Ernest Hemingway.

The Havana bar had its heyday during the prohibition era when the aforementioned ‘rat pack’ would fly down from Miami and Key West to enjoy Cuban rum.

Sloppy Joe was Jose Garcia, and the ‘sloppy’ took its name from the melted ice that left the floor perpetually wet.

The coming of socialism, with the Cuban revolution of 1959 saw business further decline and the bar closed after being damaged by fire in the 1960’s.

The bar was renovated between 2007 and early 2013, reopening to the public in April 2013.

These days it’s a tourist attraction, the local area (Parque Centrale) is perhaps the most up-market part of ‘old’ Havana, giving clues as to how the city is likely to be revamped and revitalised in coming years.


Inside, the décor harks back to the bars golden age, with authentic pictures of past clientele in the wall cabinets. The bar, at sixty feet long is the longest in Havana.

I wandered in at lunchtime – El Floridita (about a hundred yards away) was rammed with tourists and while Sloppy Joes quickly filled with tour groups, I was able to enjoy a couple of very pleasant Mojitos for only 4 CUC each (about $4).

Okay so it’s been refurbished, but I suspect it’s a more authentic taste of old Cuba than many other bars.

Posted in diary, Travels.