Shortly after the end of Prohibition, Horace Coniglio quenched the thirst of a dry neighborhood in Monterey with the establishment of a public saloon. He named the joint My Attic, a nod to the secret settings where the parties had never stopped. Two years ago, Jason Coniglio raised the bar on his grandfather’s place by reopening My Attic in the same location, as a smooth, sophisticated, late-night lounge. What he kept the same was his grandfather’s credo. Horace welcomed anyone who wanted to imbibe and engage in orderly conduct. So, too, his grandson, who’s keeping it comfortable, clean and classy.
“This is a place to relax, socialize and be on your best behavior,” Coniglio says. “We get a lot of locals during the week and weekends, and the conference crowd comes in for a late drink. Early in the evening, we get an older, professional crowd, looking to continue the thought process over an after-work drink with clients or coworkers. We tend to see a younger crowd on weekends, mostly students and members of the military.”
Established in the 1930s inside the Casa Sanchez building on Alvarado Street in Monterey, the bar became a hub for military personnel and their dates, and others excited to socialize once again, with a drink in their hands. The bartender was known for singing and dancing as he mixed drinks, but no one ever got out of hand. It was a place of hospitality and honor, and people were not going to abuse the privilege.
Horace didn’t have a signature drink, except whatever the bartender was pouring at the moment. His goal was to give people what they wanted. And his style of service kept him in business for 30 years.
Although the bar rests on a long-standing reputation, Jason is constantly working to keep My Attic revered yet relevant, contemporary yet classic. He showcases local wines, and serves cocktails from the 30s and 40s, creating a blend of heritage and hospitality. And he wants his guests to feel it the moment they come through the door.
He plays jazz and light lounge music in the early evening, and goes up tempo with a mix of energy music later on, shifting the vibe to suit the crowd. He also serves simple hot food during his happy hour and late-night hours—including signature Sicilian-style meatballs.
“By reopening my grandfather’s bar,” says Jason, “we’ve created an old-school, old-fashioned experience that’s traditional and classy. We want people to have a taste of Monterey, to experience the heritage, culture, and hospitality of the area, and to have a really good time.”
The bar, originally styled in 30s and 40s décor, has re-opened with the same aesthetic, carried off in contemporary colors. The front room, with its dark-stained, hand-milled oak bar, is adobe white, offset by dark wood. The back room, intended to be warm, welcoming, comfortable, even cozy, is done in olive tones with dark wood accents. The original My Attic sign was restored and re-hung outside.
Bar bouncers present themselves as hosts in sports coats and slacks, “setting the bar” on behavior, by modeling decorum. Which doesn’t diminish the fun.
“We are different than what the rest of downtown Monterey has to offer,” says Jason, “but we fit well into the community. We are developing more of a neighborhood feel, and we know it’s important to promote all that downtown has to offer. We want everyone to be successful, to create the social hub this once was and should be, still.”
Jason often thinks of his grandfather, who rarely had a drink in his hand at the bar, mostly because he never drank with his patrons. Yet he went home at night to share a Manhattan with Jason’s Nana, in the traditional Sicilian style.
“My grandfather would say I’m crazy to get into the business,” says Jason, “but I think he’d also be very proud, particularly of what we’re trying to do. He absolutely was the same way, very organized, very polished, almost proper; he lived by a very high moral and hospitable standard.”
Although Jason was born seven years after his grandfather decided the bar had had a good run and sold it, he has heard stories of the era throughout his life. His father and uncle have impressed the cautionary tale upon him that, if the bar was not cleaned properly, Horace would grab his sons out of school and have them clean it right.
“My grandfather raised us the same way,” says Jason, “to be neat and clean, to create a good experience, and present food and beverage as if we were serving it to family. Everything should be done with love and respect. He ran a tight ship. I’m not as strict as my grandfather, but I probably should be.”
My Attic, 414 Alvarado St, Monterey (831) 647-1834
A fifth-generation Northern Californian, Lisa Crawford Watson has enjoyed a diverse career in business, education and writing. She lives with her family on the Monterey Peninsula, where her grandmother once lived and wrote. An adjunct writing instructor for CSU Monterey Bay and Monterey Peninsula College, Lisa is also a free-lance writer, who specializes in the genres of art & architecture, health & lifestyle, food & wine. She has published various books and thousands of feature articles and columns in local and national newspapers and magazines.