Coyote Ugly Howls to Fame and Fortune

In this Salute to American Success, we’re taking a look at the Coyote Ugly Saloon. Using her prior experience as a bartender and waitress, Liliana ‘Lil’ Lovell founded the famed bar in 1993 in New York City.

After graduating from New York University, Lovell’s original plan was to become a stock broker. However, she soon realized the money just wasn’t there.

“I only got paid about $250 a week,” Lovell said. “I was able to make more money bartending and waiting tables in one night than one week as a stock broker’s apprentice.”

After working at multiple bars, Lovell opened the first Coyote Ugly when she was 25.

“Coyote [Ugly] was a product of who I was in the industry at the time and what I liked,” Lovell said. “It was fun for me and I could command attention. It didn’t occur to me that I was young and opening my own business… it didn’t occur to me that it was so rare for a woman to be so powerful in the bar business.”

One reason for the business’ celebrity-status is due to its bartenders, known as “Coyotes,” who perform dance routines on top of the bar, and other forms of entertainment for the customers. As for drinks, Lovell said anything requiring a blender is a no-go in her bars.

In 2000, a movie inspired by the bar was released (based on an article in GQ Magazine). Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the film’s cast included Piper Perabo, Tyra Banks, Maria Bello and John Goodman.

“The movie was an opportunity… you couldn’t buy that kind of press,” Lovell said.

Despite thinking there would only be a few locations, the brand has expanded all over the world. There are currently 21 locations open and operating in nine states and in Germany, Ukraine and Russia.

“Stores get the same training internationally as they do in America,” Lovell said.

“There’s a different culture to entertainment districts throughout the world. The Moscow location is very similar to U.S. bars. It’s more of a club culture in Kazan, though it’s not a club… there are more people on the floor dancing there. Our Russian bars are doing incredibly well.”