MEDIA Center

Man About Downtown

Coyote Ugly: What’s in a Name?

First came Coyote Ugly Saloon, the New York City bar. Next came Coyote Ugly, the movie based on the all-female-bartender, country-style saloon. In February, Coyote Ugly, the 24th link in the international bar chain, came to the Gaslamp Quarter.

Curious about the name? Here's dialogue from the 2000 movie:

          Girl: What, oh, what does Coyote Ugly mean?

          Lil (the owner): Did you ever wake up sober after a one-night stand, and the person you're next to is layin' on your arm, and they're so ugly, you'd rather chew off your arm then risk waking 'em? That's coyote ugly.

          Girl:  My God. But, why would you name your bar after somethin' like that?

          Lil:  Oh, because Cheers was taken.

That explains that. If you didn't see the movie, here's the explanatory blurb from IMDb.com: Aspiring songwriter Violet Sanford [Piper Perabo], after getting a job at a women-run NYC bar that teases its male patrons, comes out of her shell.

Say what you want about the movie, but John Goodman and Maria Bello acted their guts out in it.

San Diego's Coyote Ugly (820 Fifth Ave.) hopes the universal advertising tenet “sex sells” still has standing. It certainly seems to be establishing a beachhead here in the Gaslamp. Two doors down on Fifth Avenue is the new Lucky Bastard, a similar bar/eatery run by former Playboy Playmate Nicole Dahm. At Lucky Bastard, all the servers are female and wear revealing leather chaps. Just around the corner from the new Coyote Ugly is the Pussycat Dolls Dollhouse dance club.

Coyote Ugly occupies the spot briefly held by Frauds & Swindlers and was previously The Merk. Next door is the former site of recently departed Croce's, and odds are good the next tenant there won't be a charter school or a church.

The spirited opening night at Coyote Ugly featured nearly nonstop dancing and other shenanigans up on the bar. To be a bartender here, you have to be able to mix a drink and shake a leg. Most of the group dances are choreographed. Some include female patrons who are invited up to down whiskey shots and shake their civilian booties. No Y chromosomes are allowed up on the bar.

 There's an upstairs and downstairs, but most people tend to cluster in the narrow space in front of the downstairs bar, which is really center stage for the dancing and other feats of derring-do. (It's likely few people noticed the two Skee-ball games in the back of the downstairs area, near the stairs.)

 The establishment is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. They serve a variety of pizzas cooked up in an oven that produces Samurai Pies (Mystic Pizza was taken). I also downed (by accident) a sample piece of a tray-passed pastrami sandwich. I'd never tried pastrami before. True story. But it was so good it actually caused me to look away from a bustling, bar-top dance production of Bryan Adams' “Summer of '69.” 

Thus proving: No matter your standards, if you just give a place a chance, you can usually find a dish you like.

Ron Donoho is a downtown resident and former executive editor of San Diego Magazine. His favorite movie-inspired chain restaurant is Bubba Gump. Go figure.coyote ugly