Crisis threatens historic Harry’s Bar in Venice

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, December 16, 2012 9:17 EDT
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Owner Arrigo Cipriani says there has been a 20- to 30-percent drop in clients since 2008 (AFP_File, Marco Sabadin)
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One of Ernest Hemingway’s favourite watering holes, the legendary Harry’s Bar in Venice, is being forced to slash costs due to rising debts and a sharp drop in visitors.

The canalside bar opened in 1931 in a narrow alley next to the city’s famous St Mark’s Square and quickly became a popular stop on the celebrity circuit, counting Truman Capote, Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles among its regulars.

An international luxury brand, one of its claims to fame is the pink-coloured Bellini cocktail — a mixture of peach juice and Prosecco sparkling wine that is now a global staple.

“Those were good times,” Arrigo Cipriani, the 80-year-old son of founder Giuseppe Cipriani, was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera daily on Sunday.

But the bar’s accounts have plunged into the red in recent years.

“From 2008 to now we have seen a 20- to 30-percent drop in clients. Venice now gets a lot of day trippers, not quality tourists,” Cipriani said.

“The new rich arriving from China and Russia do not make up for the Americans who used to be a regular presence all year round,” he added.

Blue Sky Investment, the group that controls the bar together with the Cipriani family, has now stepped in and will act as “an external administrator” to cut salary costs at the bar, which employs 75 people, Corriere della Sera reported.

“If there is no work, we are forced to reduce costs,” Cipriani said.

The bar traces its origins back to when Cipriani’s father was a hotel bartender in Venice who came across Harry Pickering, a young American who had been cut off by his wealthy family in Boston because of his drinking habit.

Cipriani lent Pickering some money and the grateful Pickering returned the favour years later, giving Cipriani enough money to open his own bar.

Cipriani bars, clubs and restaurants now operate in cities around the world, including Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Moscow and New York.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
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