During Prohibition, Irving Berlin wrote a song suggesting the drinking set go to Cuba. If you want to go to Havana, starting Thursday, you only need to make your way to 10th Avenue and East Pike Street to discover the city's newest watering spot with faded elegance ala the Cuban capital.
"The entry way is actually around the back of the building through the parking lot," said Quentin Ertel, whose extensive experience in Capitol Hill and Belltown nightlife has made him well prepared to to open his own cocktail lounge. "It's a little bit like a speakeasy entrance."
Havana, as the new establishment is called, is furnished with four booths, three under the large, front windows (looking out on 10th Avenue) and a huge, wrap-around booth taking up one end of the seating area. There are about 20 bamboo-topped tables on three levels. DJs will set up the booth on the middle level and all are suitable for parties.
"I'm so excited to open because I have talked to so many people who want to have their birthday parties here," Ertel said.
He said he has seating for about 75, though the room occupancy is actually rated for 99. The light fixtures are refurbished antiques. Some are architectural salvage, like the five pendulum lights above the booths, rescued during the Cleveland High School renovation. The bar is smooth, white marble, 16-feet long, with a decorative backbar featuring gold Corinthian columns.
"It looks like a bar that has been around a long time," he said. That and the molding on the walls and wainscoting combine to give the main room an old-fashion feel.
"I wanted to just evoke a feeling of dilapidated elegance," Ertel said. "That city [Havana] is perfect for that."
Inspiration for Ertel and his designer came from many pictures of Havana in its heyday and later. "The place really feels like it has been here for 100 years. It's a beautiful place, but it is just a little rough around the edges. As it gets dinged up it will only get better."
Ertel, a tall 36-year-old with a runner's build, said he ordinarily likes to dress casually, but plans to wear suits when he is on the premises, projecting the image of El Patrone.
"The aim is to just create something special," Ertel said. "Something different that the city and [Capitol] Hill haven't seen before. I really want it to be a place for everybody."
"Death of the Party" is booked to play Tuesdays, and DJs Fourcolorzack and N8 will keep the place hopping on the weekends. The music choices will be eclectic.
Opening for Havana is Thursday, June 22. After that hours will be 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week. Entry is through the parking lot at 1010 E. Pike St. The parking lot, with impressive brick and iron work along the street, is a pay lot that is not affiliated with Havana, though customers may park there (for a price).
The lot is directly across East Pike Street from Café Vita and Via Tribunali Pizza. Look for the awning over the entry in the left rear side of the lot.
During happy hour, 4 to 7 p.m. daily, customers may enter from the breezeway between 1514 and 1508 10th Ave., an entry shared with the Gary Manuel Aveda Institute.
Food will be available, including pizza from Via Tribunali, but Ertel does not intend Havana to be a dining experience. This is a bar.
"I am thrilled to be back on the Hill," Ertel said. "I couldn't be happier. It's the only place I wanted to open my first bar."