Women Still Rule the Coyote Ugly Saloon, 25 Years Later

The Coyote Ugly Saloon, the East Village bar that became an early 2000s cult film, proved it takes work to keep a wild reputation alive. On a Sunday in January, about 350 guests celebrated the bar’s 25th anniversary at a party that included appearances from a contortionist, Times Square’s Naked Cowboy and a performance from the rapper Justina Valentine.

“It’s the year of the woman,” Ms. Valentine declared from atop the bar to the crowd of former bartenders, regulars, some who have been patrons since the 90s,and fans of the film. “It’s the decade of the woman.”

The owner, Liliana Lovell, was there catching up with the customers who frequented her saloon 25 years ago, when she was the one dancing on the bar. “It’s like getting into an old shoe,” she said about being back…

The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon

 was not the prettiest bartender at the Coyote Ugly Saloon. In my opinion, that would have been Caroline. I was partial to Caroline, though, because she had been so nice to me when I began working here. She was very pretty and also very funny. When I asked Caroline how she’d gotten her first bartender job, she cupped her breasts and said simply, “These.” (On first glance, however, Caroline’s breasts didn’t seem exceptional, and I said as much. She unzipped her bulky sweatshirt and showed them to me. Then I said, “Oh.”)

Still, some regulars would have insisted that the prettiest bartender at the Coyote Ugly Saloon was Chris, who had sassy short hair like a boy’s and a heart-stopping midriff. Of course, there was also Jackie to consider. Jackie was very pretty. Jackie was also famous for tossing shots of rum into her mouth, holding a lighter to her lips and blowing ten-foot bursts of flame across the room. There was definitely a cult of Jackie. Molly was pretty in a way that attracted the downtown crowd, and Dawn was pretty in the way that bikers like. And as for Jessie? Jessie was practically an objet d’art. Jessie was so goddamn pretty that it barely counted. One of the many regulars who fell in love with Jessie dated her a few times. She broke it off quickly. But he would still come into the Coyote Ugly Saloon every night, just to talk about her…

Things are Getting Ugly

Some company owners are really good at dancing on bars and sassing men. Others know how to expand and license their brand. It wasn’t easy, but Lil Lovell, founder of the Coyote Ugly saloons, managed to master both.

Liliana Lovell’s Cabo San Lucas bar started out badly. Then it got worse. Back in 1993, Lovell, known as Lil, had founded the Coyote Ugly Saloon, a rowdy, honky-tonk dive in New York City’s East Village. Seven years later her life as a barkeep changed drastically when Coyote Ugly, a movie set in a Hollywood version of her bar, was released. Seizing on the free publicity, Lovell ginned up plans to turn Coyote Ugly into an international chain.

She wasn’t the only one with the idea, however. Shortly after the movie’s release, Jorge Manterola, the brother of the well-known Mexican singer Patricia Manterola, set up a website claiming to be the “master franchise” for Coyote Ugly in Latin America…