Havana Bars: Not so much mine, Not so much yours

Yanelys Nunez Leyva

HAVANA TIMES — A part of the emerging private business sector in Havana are the so-called “bars” that have been rapidly spreading like a rash for some time now.

These are spaces which, from the very beginning, have operated as places where the most privileged young people in the area go to unwind and have fun.

According to the personal experiences of some of these young people – the majority being friends of mine – the bars that have become the most famous over time, are currently establishing very strange regulations which stem from the context of complete government disarray or complicity, allowing them to change prices, giving them the right to reserve admission, undisguised prostitution and absurd behavioral norms with customers.

However, these bars have their own peculiarities. Let’s take a look at some examples.

In one of the most popular bars, King Bar, located on 23 and C streets, you have to make a reservation beforehand if you want to sit down at one of their tables, so even if you get there really early and the place is deserted, if you haven’t made a reservation you can’t sit down. Sometimes this rule goes on well into the night, even when there are still empty seats.

Another questionable position they sometimes take at King Bar, which they share with the majority of their neighbors, is that which is related to the abovementioned “right to refuse admission””. Using purely visual tactics, doormen at each establishment – with their boss’ approval – decide who can and can’t enter, depending on how a person is dressed or the group they are with. Foreigners get a free pass.

It’s important to highlight the fact that the suitable dress code has nothing to do wearing shorts, T-shirts or inappropriate shoes, like they say on many an occasion trying to justify their attitude, but rather has everything to do with the already consolidated statistic, that “the better a person dresses” the greater the spending on drinks and food.

This sniffing out “good customers” can be clearly seen at the entrance of Mio y Tuyo, where the repetitive “closed because it’s full” can exclude more than one young person who has reached this part of Playa by mistake.

The Roma Bar isn’t very different, although it began with a profile that wanted to seek out the financially solvent ones in the art world – one of its initial projects was led by the group Stainless – but drink prices have soared and the level of accessibility has varied greatly as months have passed. As the Roma sometimes rents out the venue for private events, those “you’re not on the list” become common and you can never verify whether the announcement that the place is “reserved” is true or just pure strategy to drive people away.

The Muralla Bar, an old space which used to be hired out for events in Old Havana, while showing off its new decor, also displays its regular offers of 10 CUC with 7 for drinks to a public who don’t have this kind of money a lot of the time and so can’t go in. This policy, in the middle of the Historic Center where almost everything closes at midnight, is a slap in the face for those who are interested in having a drink and enjoying a bit of music without having to go all the way to Vedado.

The bar phenomenon in Havana still needs to be analyzed in depth. Mass prostitution which has been visible – not uncovered – is the reason why some bars have closed their doors. A strange mist surrounds many of them – like the Bing Bang Bar, located right next to Mio y Tuyo, which can be open for just five customers in the whole night.  This leads me to ask not only about the future of those who can still enter these sophisticated businesses, but also about the deep social differences that are becoming clearer and clearer everyday, in a society which still declares itself to be socialist.

Yanelys Nuñez

Yanelys Nuñez Leyva: Writing is to expose oneself, undress before the inquisitive eyes of all. I like to write, not because I have developed a real fondness for nudity, but because I love composing words, thinking of stories, phrases that touch, images that provoke different feelings. Here I have a place to talk about art, life, me. In the end, feeling good about what you do is what matters; either with or without clothing.

Yanelys Nuñez has 146 posts and counting. See all posts by Yanelys Nuñez

6 thoughts on “Havana Bars: Not so much mine, Not so much yours

  • Welcome to the joys of capitalism, Yanelys.

    You can’t preach about the horrors of the present administration then start whining when the alternative shows up.

  • Capitalist markets and dictatorship of state. Just like China or Vietnam. The government control everything even what you can read, see,says, where you live, associations, free speech. In exchange for “free” education as long you agree with the king Raul’s policies and free medical attention just like the master used to offer to the slaves. Socialism is well and alive only in the Scandinavian countries. Cuba government is a leftist dictatorship that chose “communism” just in order to control everything no ideology, whatever can keep then in power as they are showing now looking like an old whore for money to stay afloat. Calling Cuba’s government socialist is immoral and unfair to socialism.

  • Sounds like NYC, Yanelys! I remember Studio 57, 1980’s and if you didn’t look that part, you weren’t admitted. Oh, and 90% of the US population couldn’t afford to spend much time there, very expensive.

  • These initiatives by individuals endeavoring to progress obviously get up your nose! How dare Cubans endeavor to improve their lives rather than just accepting being part of the ‘mass’?

    I have friends who are democratic socialists and I have no desire to kill them or their beliefs to which they are entitled. My opposition is to the imposition of communist dictatorship upon the people of Cuba, the repression that is used to enforce it, the denial of human rights, the denial of free speech – which both you and I are using here – tthe denial of a free media and the endeavor to control all aspects of life.

    One either opposes dictatorship or supports it. I oppose it, how about you Ryan Ross?

  • Yes, as a matter of fact, I am.

  • Oh, the joys of capitalism. You promoters of killing socialism on the island must be loving it.

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