By Rhashad R. Pittman and Gaby Muro
When customers walk into Harry’s Cocktail Lounge in a couple of months from now, they will notice something new about the longtime, Stockton bar located on the south side of town.
In the background above the stage, they will see a colorful, four-foot tall mural on display. It will be one of three works of art added that reflect Mexican history and culture – just one of many additions by its new owners to make the bar more inviting to its mostly Hispanic clientele.
Located in the 400th block of East Charter Way, Harry’s Cocktail Lounge has been in business for more than five decades, and owned by Latinos for the past 30 years. Stockton native Angie Guzman and her husband Mariano Guzman, a native of Mexico, recently purchased the establishment with the goal of incorporating more Mexican culture into the atmosphere.
“I’m very proud of my heritage,” said Angie, who serves as Director of Sales and Catering for the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel. “What we believe in, and who we are, is important.”
In addition to Mexican music, and what some call the best tequila in town, Harry’s soon will feature paintings based on Mexican historic figures and traditions. For the past few months, the Guzmans have been working closely with members of the San Joaquin County art community in planning the concept and designs of the murals.
The Guzmans have commissioned the organization Art Expressions of San Joaquin, led by Arturo Vera, to paint the three murals, which will reflect a battle scene from the Mexican Revolution, a well–known plaza in Mexico, and the Mexican holiday Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Once completed, the murals will be displayed and rotated every three months.
Within the next few months Harry’s will undergo a few changes other than the artwork on its walls. The Guzmans say their goal is to renovate the lounge but not alter the basic look and feel of the establishment, which many local residents have grown to love.
Yazmira Gastelum, a longtime customer of Harry’s, said she stops by Harry’s on a daily basis and chats with the Guzmans.
“I like the atmosphere and the people that go there,” Gastelum said. “You can actually have a conversation. They go out of their way to help people.”
The Guzmans decided to purchase Harry’s after Angie heard it was up for sale and Angie decided to take a tour of the bar in case she knew anyone who might be interested in buying it. “I walked in and it was like, Oh my God this is like a real bar.” “It felt welcoming to me, it felt like somewhere people wanted to be.”
In addition to revitalizing Harry’s, the couple would also like to help revitalize the area that Harry’s is located.
“I would like to play my part in taking away the stigma of Charter Way and the South Side and having a nice clean safe environment for people to come and enjoy themselves,” Angie said.
Harry’s Cocktail Lounge is open daily from 9am to 2am with Friday nights DJ from 7pm to 2am and live music Saturday and Sunday 7pm to am.