Barbara Sibley, the new owner of the storied old East Village dive (she owns La Palapa next door), was revamping the interior when she discovered an old mural beneath the mirror behind the horseshoe-shaped bar. The colorful, rather louche painting depicts a belly dancer being observed by two turbaned sultans and three harem girls.
Sibley suspects—correctly, I’m thinking—that the mural belongs to the Ali Baba Lounge, which occupied the space from the 1930s to the 1950s, at which time the Holiday took up residency.
Sibley seems to respect the joint’s long history. The mural will be kept and restored. She will retain and refresh the old bar and keep the awning. She’s going to rip up the plywood floor to get down to the original wood. She also found flocked wallpaper behind the current walls in the back.
That shit is very cool. I’ve never heard of an “Ali Baba Lounge” on St. Mark’s. Here’s a little more background from the Times blog:
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.)
That’s fantastic stuff. And it makes me want to sit back and listen to Mohammed el-Bakkar and his Oriental Ensemble.