Rebirth of Fagiani’s bar triggers name dispute

2012-07-24T23:00:00Z 2012-07-25T22:59:38Z Rebirth of Fagiani’s bar triggers name disputeCHANTAL M. LOVELL Napa Valley Register
July 24, 2012 11:00 pm  • 

For decades, the long-shuttered stone building at 813 Main St. has always been Fagiani’s.

And when a new restaurant and bar open there next month, the name, and all the history and memories that come with it, will live on.

For some, the Fagiani’s moniker is a tribute to Napa’s past, but for others it’s a constant reminder of a night they’d like to forget. Anita Andrews, whose father owned the original Fagiani’s, was murdered there in 1974 and the cocktail lounge was locked shortly after.

Steve Hasty, who purchased the century-old building in late 2007, is about to open a restaurant on the upper floors of the building and a bar at street level. He is naming the restaurant The Thomas and the bar Fagiani’s at The Thomas, paying homage to the only two businesses known to have operated there.

“It’s unique to have a building that’s 100 years old that has only had two businesses,” Hasty said, referring to The Thomas restaurant and boarding house that was first there, and later, Fagiani’s bar.

Some members of the Fagiani family are objecting to the use of the family name in Hasty’s project. They say Hasty’s decision is disrespectful, capitalizing on the Andrews murder.

“The Fagianis are not a famous family,” said Donna Hawkins, Andrews’ daughter. “The building is only known for my mother’s death.”

Hasty said the Fagiani name has been associated with the building for well over a half century, including long before the 1974 tragedy. The name is also tied to Andrews’ sister, Muriel Fagiani, a co-owner of the building, who was a local legend for her commentary at City Council meetings from the 1970s until her death in 2010.

“(Muriel) loved the bar,” said Hasty, who was a close friend of hers. “She wanted people to see Fagiani’s as it was, not the tragedy. ... ‘Papa’s bar’ was important to her.”

Hawkins said she, her sister and other family members do not share those memories.

“(Muriel Fagiani) had fond memories of when her father had that bar, but we lost our mother because of that bar,” Hawkins said.

Neither sister ever wanted to work in the bar after their father, Nicola Fagiani, died, she said. They kept it operating a few nights a week to keep the liquor licenses valid while they figured out what to do with the space they inherited from their father, she said.

Furthermore, Hawkins said, Muriel Fagiani was a private woman and is already honored with a chair in her name in the City Council chambers. In her letter to the editor last week, she said it would be more appropriate to name an animal or bookstore after her.

“All that one is left to assume, with the family never being asked about this, is that it is all about making money off of a horrific event,” she wrote.

Fagiani sold the bar to Hasty in 2007 after receiving multiple offers from others. In an interview after the sale was announced, Fagiani said it was time to sell it and her nieces wanted it to be sold.

Hawkins, a co-owner at the time, said the only reason the property left family hands was because the city required old buildings to be seismically retrofitted, something she, her sister and aunt could not afford.

Hasty said he and Fagiani spoke at length about the restaurant and bar he was planning, and the name.

“It could have been some chain restaurant,” Hasty said of the restaurant being created by New York restaurant design firm AvroKO. “I think what you’ll find here is what Muriel would have liked to have seen there. I’m going to follow Muriel’s wishes.”

Hawkins’ son, Michael Hawkins, of Hawaii, said using his family’s name puts salt on a still-present wound.

“Every time we go downtown, we’ll be reminded of the tragic memory of my grandma’s murder,” he said. “It would be a whole lot easier to move past this without the Fagiani name out front. We’ve been trying all these years.”

The family is happy with the design of the new restaurant, they just want their family’s name left out, Donna Hawkins said.

“We just got closure,” she said, referring to the fact that her mother’s killer was convicted last year. She’d hoped that was the end of her family’s troubling past, she said.

Hasty said he too hopes people can move past the space’s horrors and focus on the beauty he has spent the past few years restoring.

“Like Napa, this is moving forward,” he said.  “We’re trying to do what Muriel would want and focus on the good that it was. It’s Nick Fagiani. It’s Muriel.”

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