If there's anything Liliana Lovell knows, it's how to show people a howling good time against the backdrop of music, uncomplicated libations and female bartenders whose spontaneous antics have made Coyote Ugly Saloon (225 N. Peters St., 561-0003) a legend -- and a hit movie.
Lovell opened the first Coyote Ugly Saloon in New York City more almost a decade ago, featuring mostly country music, beer and shots and female bartenders who liked to dance on the bars and interact with customers in other lighthearted ways. The bar became a hit on the New York bar scene, inspiring write-ups in The New York Times, London Times and other newspapers. It later was the subject of the Disney movie, Coyote Ugly, after a former bartender wrote an article about her experiences that was published in GQ magazine.
"I've been in the bar business since I was 18," says Lovell, who moved her family to New Orleans permanently when she opened the French Quarter bar eight months ago with partners Marshall Mintz, Aaron Mackos and Jaqueline Squatriglia. "I had done the whole gamut -- the dive bars, nightclubs, restaurant-bars -- the whole gamut of bar and restaurant industry places. I opened the Coyote, because that's the kind of bar I wanted to do.
"I knew that, as a woman, I always made a lot of money behind the bar for myself and the owners. I thought, 'Let's just make it a wild honky-tonk.'"
She chose the name after her then-boyfriend husband mentioned it as a moniker after he'd read a play by the same name. She, however, took to it because of its use in describing an unattractive pick up. "It's when you get so drunk one night, and the next morning you wake up and there's someone in your bed and you'd rather chew your own arm off than wake them up," she says.
Although the New York bar plays 90 percent country music, New Orleans patrons favor rock 'n' roll. "People don't like country music too much down here," she says.
Lovell now owns five Coyote Ugly Saloons -- there're also are bars in Las Vegas, Atlanta and Cabo San Lucas -- and plans to open another 16 across the country in the next two years.
"The whole idea is that you have beautiful women as bartenders, but they're not so beautiful that they're unattainable," she says of selecting her staff. "Some are the girls next door, some have the grunge look, some the tattooed look. They're just girls who will party with you."
There are a few choreographed numbers, Lovell says, such as the Body Shot in which one woman lays on the bar, the other pours liquor on her stomach, and the customer drinks the liquor off her stomach and takes the lime out of her mouth. The Penalty Shot entails a bartender pouring liquor straight from the bottle into the customer's mouth.
"The rest of the entertainment is spontaneous," she says. "[The bartenders] can jump up on the bar, dance, or grab the microphone if they want."
After 10 years, Lovell says the concept seems to work well in every setting. "I love it," she says. "My business has gone from a small business to a big business. You can do it anywhere, because the concept translates anywhere; it's just people having fun. Anyone can come."
The 2,000-square-foot French Quarter bar isn't just a hangout for men. Women like to patronize the bar for some free-wheeling fun and are welcome to step on top of the bar for dancing and revelry. "They put away their inhibitions and have a good time like everybody else," Lovell says. "We get a lot of women in as customers."
The saloon features happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays as well as from midnight to 4 a.m. Tuesday. The favored drinks are beer and shots, mostly of Crown Royal bourbon or tequila. The club also has a second-floor room for private parties.
Need some inspiration for your holiday party plans? Partysist caterers and Click Imports are hosting Party on Olive, a preview of festive food, wines and holiday decor from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at Partysist (8020 Olive St.). The caterer's headquarters will be open for tours and delicacies prepared by Executive chef Max Bouzaid. Click Imports will showcase Buckeleys and Fat Bastard wines at the event.
- Customer Jeff Held shares a cold brew and a little fun with bartender Ginger Patterson at Coyote Ugly Saloon in the French Quarter.