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Coyote Ugly owner shares bar’s most scandalous events

The 2000 hit film Coyote Ugly turns 20 today — and the owner of the real New York City bar that inspired the film is sharing the wild stories the movie didn’t show. 

Liliana Lovell, who served as a consultant on the motion picture, opened Coyote Ugly Saloon in Manhattan’s East Village in 1993 — and told the New York Post this week that while some of the crazy scenes depicted in the film are true, they actually only scratch the surface of what has happened inside her bar.

‘I’ve seen some crazy s***, my friend,’ the 52-year-old said.

Even the name of the bar has an origin story that references wild nights out. Lovell explained that ‘coyote ugly’ refers to ‘when you get so drunk that the next day you wake up in bed with some awful guy and you’d rather chew your arm off than wake them up.’

Certainly, a lot of sexy stories have come out of her bar, and Lovell herself has even helped fulfill customers’ fantasies — for a price.  

‘I had a guy pay $1,000 to do a shot out of my underwear so I cut my thong underwear off and pulled it out and he did a shot out of it. I don’t get it personally. I wouldn’t do it, but they do. To this day, they still do,’ she said.

Customers would also buy shots to drink through her shoes or socks. 

Another time, a regular customer accidentally crashed his motorcycle into the bar. Lovell was shocked that customers inside cheered, assuming the crash was staged. 

‘The absurdity of how the crowd just loved it when they could have just died,’ she said.

Some popular scenes from the film were inspired by things that actually happened in the bar — for example, Lovell says they really have lit the bar on fire. 

She also admitted that she has ‘sometimes’ sprayed customers with a hose when they’ve asked for water, like the characters do in the film with chants of ‘hell no, H2O.’ 

But some things in the movie version of the bar — which was filmed on a set in Los Angeles — didn’t happen in real life, and never would.

In fact, Lovell revealed that she has only ever watched the movie once, and couldn’t get past how the on-screen bar owner, Lil, bought a round of drinks for the bar when the health department visited — some that ‘drives [her] nuts.’

‘I would slit my own wrists before I bought the whole bar a round like Lil does when the health inspectors come in,’ she told The Ringer. 

Some memorable moments have happened after the film’s release. Thanks to the bump in name recognition, Lovell has been able to turn Coyote Ugly into an international franchise, and has 29 locations worldwide.

At her bar in Tampa, she said, she once had a female celebrity visit and make a mess. She said the star was drunk and ‘missed the toilet’ with ‘number two.’

It’s also still common for customers come in and sing ‘Can’t Fight the Moonlight,’ LeAnn Rimes’ song for the film. 

Lovell added that film was so popular that she started hiring choreographers at her bars to give fans what they expected. 

‘The Coyotes do a dance every 40 minutes now. People have fallen, but we’ve remedied a lot of that — we make the bars wide so there’s more space,’ she said.

Two decades later, Lovell said, she also still keeps in touch with some former bartenders, including ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ author Elizabeth Gilbert. Years before the memoir, Gilbert started working at Coyote Ugly a week after it opened, and in 1997 wrote a GQ story about it that inspired the film. 

Speaking to The Ringer, Gilbert recalled her own wild nights working there.

‘I’d dance on the bar in leather vests with no shirt on underneath,’ she said. ‘I’m tall and [the ceiling] was so grimey with tar and cigarettes that I could grip on to it to keep my balance.

‘Without a doubt the whole thing was a scheme to get men’s money. Lil knew that if you show them attention, cleavage, and boss them around, they’re going to work for you forever. She almost had a dominatrix energy to her,’ she added. 

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