(This article was commissioned by Gay Entertainment Directory, and it first appeared in their November 2019 edition.)
When the corporate America pace starts taking a toll on our quality of life, may folks daydream about starting a new chapter elsewhere. A few see their dreams turn to reality thanks to determination and timing, such as Christopher Biles and Vincent Smith, who recently took over the management of a gay bar in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and rebranding it into a new venture.
Originally from the Sacramento area, both Christopher and Vincent had been to Puerto Vallarta on vacation a number of times. “My first visit was three or four years ago, while on a cruise ship,” commented Christopher. I fell in love with the one-day experience and started coming down on a yearly basis. Soon after, he invited Vincent to tag along. “We are business partners and have been best friends for 15 years,” they are quick to clarify.
While spending time in Puerto Vallarta, they began frequenting Streetbar Vallarta, a gay bar located along Francisca Rodriguez St. in a pedestrian-only stretch, half a block away from the city’s iconic Los Muertos Pier. “We knew one of the owners of the bar, but when we came down to Puerto Vallarta this past Easter, we learned that he had passed away and the venue was available for purchase. When we got back to the States, I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” said Christopher.
Both of them have enjoyed successful careers; Christopher had been in the banking industry for close to three decades enjoying a comfortable six-figure income, while Vincent is a nurse practitioner specializing in dermatology—completely different industries, but with one thing in common: an increasing level of work-related stress paired with a decreased quality of life.
Unable to take the notion of owning a gay bar in Puerto Vallarta out of their minds, they began making inquiries, first with the remaining Streetbar owner, then with the real estate agency representing him. What began as a daydream, quickly turned into the right opportunity at the right time.
“We didn’t retire,” explains Christopher. “We took our savings and chose to leave corporate America in search of a better quality of life and a new, self-directed adventure, being well aware this would also mean a decreased income.”
Then came time to start thinking of the right personality for the venue they had just acquired. In a city regarded internationally as Mexico’s beachfront gay destination of choice, one with over 25 gay bars in a 10×10 block gayborhood, this is no easy task. However, coming up with the ideal name for the venue provided a good amount of inspiration.
“We were spitballing names and somehow found ourselves talking about different birds,” Vincent recalls. “We began reading Wikipedia’s list of birds of Mexico out loud until we came to the chachalaca, and thought, ‘well, that’s a fun word to say’.”
Endemic to tropical and sub-tropical Mexico, Central and South America, the chachalaca is known for its loud and often untimely song. And yes, they are ubiquitous in Puerto Vallarta!
Vincent continued with the anecdote. “So we researched chachalacas and we had an epiphany,” he said. “We want to become Puerto Vallarta’s chatterbox; a place where we want people to enjoy background music, but not so loud that it will impede a good conversation.” And so, La Chachalaca, Puerto Vallarta’s Chatterbox & Bar became a reality.
The past few months have been a whirlwind for the new venue owners, as remodeling the space became an obvious necessity. Prior to being a gay bar, the venue had been a successful Chinese restaurant for years and it still had a working kitchen, but it had unused for the past three years. The layout was boxy and non conducive to mingling and conversation, so a few walls had to go. Conversations with local friends and many visits to other gay bars in town have clarified a number of things for them. “The development process has been very organic,” said Vincent.
By the time you read this article, La Chachalaca will have been open for business for less than a month. A large open bar with tall stools around it takes centerstage. “We want people to come in and engage in conversation, even charge their USB devices with conveniently located outlets around the bar.” The side that faces the street has tall tables that allow folks to watch passersby while enjoying a cocktail and music videos presented on several large flat screen monitors throughout the venue. On the opposite side of the bar, a room that used to be available for private dining, continues to fulfill that role, now with a gay twist. “We are using it as a stage, and will be scheduling drag performers on Friday evenings,” they glowed. “By tearing down walls and opening up the bar area, folks walking down the street will be able to see the entertainment from the enticed and enticed to come in.” The possibility of having karaoke nights is also in the works.
Last but not least, Christopher and Vincent are planning to put the large kitchen area to good use. “We are preparing a light menu that will change according to the time of day,” explains Christopher. “I enjoy cooking and we are working with our staff create a very unique experience for our guests.” Presently, La Chachalaca opens at 3 pm, but plans to offer breakfast and brunch are also in the works.
When asked what kind of bar La Chachalaca will be, they are quick to answer that they will be playing around with the concept for a bit, but are both quite confident that their past work experiences will be essential to their development. Located in the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s gayborhood, La Chachalaca is bound for success. Find them online at www.chachalacabar.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/chachalacabarpv.
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