Today marks 20 years since the release of Coyote Ugly. When we think of the cult-classic film today, a few things come to mind: Tyra Banks' cameo, LeAnne Rimes' "Can't Fight the Moonlight," and the many sexual awakenings that were sparked by that scene of Violet and Kevin writhing around together — who could forget that iconic lavender lingerie moment? But, of course, there's no question of what imagery is most enduring from the movie, and that's a bunch of women dancing on a bar, twirling bottles of liquor and spraying booze all over their cheering patrons. These scenes are the most memorable, and they just so happen to be inspired by the real Coyote Ugly Saloon.
The original Coyote Ugly Saloon is located in the East Village neighborhood in Manhattan and was founded in 1993 by Lil Lovell, who is portrayed in the film by Maria Bello. According to Business Insider, Lovell began working as a bartender while she was attending New York University and returned to bartending fulltime after graduating because it brought in more money than her Wall Street internship. The gig continued to be a lucrative path for Lovell. She opened the saloon at age 25, and today, she is the CEO of Ugly Inc., a licensing company that has spawned 28 Coyote Ugly locations across America and eight other countries to date.
The O.G. location is still operating in NYC — though it is temporarily closed at this time due to COVID-19 — but it does look a little bit different than the one you remember from Coyote Ugly. The bar set used in the film was assembled on a soundstage in Los Angeles and production designer Jon Hutman and set decorator Rosemary Brandenburg used the look of several establishments around the country as inspiration for the set they created, according to CinemaReview.com.
The aesthetic that the team landed on did reflect the same approach Lovell took in decorating her bar. "As the backstory goes, Lil found this place, dusted it off and left it the way it was, embracing the history of the place and embellishing it with all of this found stuff that felt like what you would have if you visited every great bar in the country," Hutman told CinemaReview. "We borrowed elements from each of the places we visited in terms of set dressing — bumper stickers, pictures, we did a big logo on the wall out of beer bottle caps that says Coyote Ugly. Rosemary did what Lil would have done, which is to take this old, run-down place we created and fill it with all that great stuff, which gives it the kind of warmth and texture that makes it totally unique."
While the overall look of the East Village saloon may look a little different from the one in the film, the experience of going there isn't far off from what's shown in the movies. Okay, we're pretty sure the bartenders don't regularly light lines of booze on fire across the bar. However, customers seem to have a good time, and plenty of dancing does happen on the bar IRL.
The original Coyote Ugly location has 4 out of 5 stars on Google Reviews, with one reviewer writing, "Well, just like the movie, this place definitely did not disappoint. Walked in here with some friends, randomly, and it was by far the best part of our night. The staff is entertaining and engaging and the drinks and customers are incredibly nice. I would highly recommend stopping by this place if you're looking to let loose and get a little crazy." Sounds a lot like the bar where Piper Perabo finally overcame her stage fright.