Palm Springs, California - One of Puerto Vallarta's newest bars began as a passing comment from a bartender at Palm Springs' oldest gay bar. Joe McClaskey mentioned to StreetBar owner Dick Haskamp that a Chinese restaurant in a perfect location in Puerto Vallarta's gay-popular Zona Romantica neighborhood was up for sale.
That was in October 2016. Days later and sight unseen, Haskamp joined with friend and former Chill Bar Palm Springs owner Mike Cullen in a 15-year lease to take over the restaurant and make it over into StreetBar Vallarta. Cullen stayed up for 36 hours straight analyzing the deal and the trends in Puerto Vallarta before jumping into the venture. After a complete top-to-bottom makeover of the space, StreetBar Vallarta opened on Dec. 28.
Cullen, 51, and Haskamp, 69, made improvements to the space during the summer in preparation for the busy late fall and winter season. The business partners also plan to start serving food in time for the busy winter season.
And like the original StreetBar which is celebrating its 26th anniversary this year, the Vallarta version will feature live entertainment and Karaoke. One of the new bar's distinctions, thanks to Cullen's tech background, is that it may be the city's most high-tech bar. Cullen set up a system allowing the bar's sound system to be tweaked by an employee's smartphone. At a customer's request, a song can be played out of just one speaker, while the rest of the bar listens to another tune.
The bar prominently features a gay flag near its entrance and the back patio wall includes a gallery of Hollywood divas. Video screens play music videos or sports. Cullen estimates that on a typical day about half of the bar's clientele is straight people who appreciate the bar's friendly atmosphere where customers can feel connected to the crowd.
The bar's employees make it a point to introduce customers to one another and they try to seat people with each other, especially if someone comes in the bar alone. And many come in already familiar with the bar's name. Puerto Vallarta is Mexico's most popular gay destination, so it is no surprise that it gets its fair share of Palm Springs visitors, but Cullen said he was surprised about how many people he meets every day from the desert.
"There is never a day that goes by that we don't meet people from Palm Springs that neither Dick nor I know. Six people came in just today from Palm Springs," Cullen says.
So far, there are no plans to expand StreetBar beyond two locations. StreetBar Palm Springs remains successful, and Haskamp and Cullen are dividing their time between Puerto Vallarta and Palm Springs to ensure that the original's enduring success rubs off on the Mexican edition. The partners are renting places in Vallarta now but look forward to buying a house or condo there in the near future.Original article