Esta publicación también está disponible en: Español
Walking around Puerto Vallarta now, there are gay bars in just about every direction. And while it’s difficult to keep count because of the opening and closing of them, at last count we counted at least 35 of all sizes catering to all types.
This however, was not always the case. There are some, very special, now defunct bars that made history and many memories. Visiting with; Ricardo Brehm, Paul Crist, Geoff Dodds, Osiel Echeverra, and Wendell Martin, over a period of days in late August, we reminisced about some of them. The recollections of Club Manana are from my own memory of that period in time.
The Great Recession in 2009 took out many of the older bars that just could not survive. They included Amor, Bite Me Beach Club, Casanovas, world famous Club Manana, Deja Vecu, El Pianito, Freedom PV, Kit Kat, KokoHome Club, Kox, La Bola, Los Balcones, Los Equipales, Miseria, Picante, Plasma/Club Zenit, Stereo, Stonewall, The Ranch, and Tease. We focused on a few of these here.
Aria was located at Pino Suárez 212, Zona Romántica, where the PVRPV laundry center now stands. It was opened in that space after Paco Paco moved out of its original location (we think in the mid 1990s). The owner was Darrell Boyer, a talented comedian, piano player and singer from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Known for their happy hour, Aria was popular and fun. Occupying two levels, the action seemed centered on the second floor. The proprietor did all the entertaining, and he was a natural at it. Sadly, he died young, but left his mark on the history of gay Puerto Vallarta. It closed in 2001.
Club Manana, to put it simply, was magic. Opening in late 2005, it was located where the massive Zenith Vallarta condo now stands, in an incredible old hacienda that was for a time the home of the club’s well known owner, Peter Deep.
For eight action packed years patrons enjoyed top rated entertainment, dancers, eclectic music, all in a phenomenal atmosphere. I remember many a night, dancing into the wee hours, the moon overhead and the glistening pool just below, hoping it would never end.
Manana, as it was commonly known, was alive with a kinetic energy, sound, and humanity moving in rhythm that is almost unimaginable today. The bar was really an entertainment complex with completely different offerings all happening simultaneously.
The main lower level had a space with a cool indoor bar, while the circular courtyard had tables and chairs and the shining stars directly above. A huge dance floor was just beneath a stage, with the pool nearby. At the periphery of the hacienda surrounded by rustic brick was comfortable seating where you could easily meet someone at a moment’s notice. Upstairs was an intimate darkroom, and I recall a rooftop lounge area where you could while away those nights that seemed to never end.
Due to a list of circumstances the club closed in 2011 (it reopened in mid-2012 for a short time), but it lives on forever in the collective memory of all those who remember Peter Deep’s phenomenal dream called Club Manana.
Los Equipales was a cantina favorite, opening in 2010 at what is now Kooky’s Karaoke Bar. Owned by Marisol Gomez, the daughter of a former council member of Puerto Vallarta, it was very popular with local Gays and Lesbians.
A Mexican style cantina and restaurant, it was named after a style of chair that was very common here years ago. It was famous for its cowboy pop mix of music and Karaoke nights. Many local singers performed at Los Equipales, including the famous El Diamante, Alberto Cuevas. The Puerto Vallarta Gay Chorus would go there to practice, and then continue to sing late into the night.
It was a massive space where everyone was welcome. Not well known among tourists, it had a definite Mexican feel and clientele. The bar closed in 2016.
NYPV was a huge structure that opened with great fanfare in March, 2004. It closed in November of 2004. It was located on the corner of Ignacio L. Vallarta 399, where currently the HEVA condo building V399 is located.
Walking into the cavernous space, you would immediately encounter a fifteen foot high bust of the Statue of Liberty, in front of that was the grand dance floor. The VIP area was to the right of the entrance, and throughout there was an awesome lighting and sound system to be envied. The musical genre was pop and other selections from the time period. It was so large that a huge crowd needed to be in attendance to maintain the feel of popularity, and that seemed impossible to attain on a regular basis.
Plasma was located where The Park condos now stand (235 Pino Suarez) and opened in 2006. It had videos on the plasma screen, pool table, and dark room. $15 pesos beer. It was a combination of two adjacent properties, a laid back bar on one side, and a more sexy, stripper, go go boys vibe on the other side. It closed in 2009.
Zotano and Por Que No/Why Not? was at 101 Morelos in Centro (Anthropology is now at this location). The establishment known as Zotano was opened in February of 1995. By June of 1997, it was closed as Zotano, and opened under the name Por Que No/Why Not?. The basement level was more of a disco, but the main floor had pool tables, videos and a lounge feel. When Por Que No/Why Not? opened, a rooftop bar was added. It had a grill and a great selection of hamburgers, hot dogs and other casual offerings were served. They had strippers, but there were no poles in that era. The bar closed in early 2001.
As we close, we would like to salute the gay pioneers whose gains, losses and lessons learned laid the groundwork for the success of all the wonderful bars and clubs that we enjoy today. Bravo. We apologize in advance for anyone we left out or dates that we may have gotten incorrect.