Three new gay, gay-friendly bars and clubs open up in the city’s zona rosa, Parque Lleras
Sam Castañeda Holdren
Medellin’s party zone – la zona rosa – is quickly becoming a hotspot for gay nightlife in Colombia’s second largest city. Three new establishments have opened up around Parque Lleras in recent months, each with their own unique flavor.
The creators of the festive and sometimes outrageous Banana Splitter parties have made a permanent space for their brand of Colombian kitsch. BarChiquita lives up to the expectations of at least one of the bar’s owners, Juan Pablo Gomez, who says he wanted to create an iconic landmark designed for an open-minded audience. Although it is not a gay bar, per say, it is very gay-friendly and attracts the type of patron who isn’t afraid to express his or her fabulousness.
From the moment you turn the corner and see the pink fluorescents illuminating the street, you know you’re in for a treat. Upon walking up the steps, a big Moulin Rouge-esque heart greets you, providing the perfect backdrop for group selfies! The space is modest, but the decor is not. BarChiquita is exploding with kitsch. Juan Pablo told me a good story behind the bar’s stylings that puts it all in context. When you visit make sure to ask one of the friendly staff about the girl from another planet.
Liberation, particularly sexual liberation, is a theme you’ll find throughout Chiquita. Besides the vagina imagery on the walls behind the bar, when you take one step into the ladies room, you’ll find yourself surrounded by 3D images of dicks….lots of them! And while those of us gay boys might be disappointed that phallic visuals don’t adorn the walls of the men’s restroom, we can all celebrate the fact that the visionaries behind BarChiquita are challenging traditional, conformist standards about how women should behave. As Juan Pablo says, Chiquita is a place where everyone can “feel free, where they can dress crazy and behave how they want.”
It is unapologetically not the norm, and that’s why I love BarChiquita so much. I credit Juan Pablo and his colleagues with creating a space where subculture can thrive in a city that desperately needed it. Medellin is awesome for so many reasons. It’s rich history and culture are draws in and of themselves, and maintaining those traditions is important. But Chiquita represents the new Colombia, and we’re sure to see more variations of what the new Colombia will look like as the country continues to develop and modernize.
That newness is also represented in the variety of mixed drinks served up by the engaging and sexy bartenders. Chiquita offers more than the rum or aguardiente you’ll get at your typical Colombian cantina, and they offer some tasty appetizers too!
Where: BarChiquita, Carrera 37 # 10-37 Local 205, Medellin (Via Primavera between Calles 10 and 10A)
Hours: Wednesdays through Saturdays, 6 pm to 2 am
More Info: https://www.facebook.com/BarChiquita/
Alta Gama Nightclub
A new nightclub is boldly claiming its prime location in Parque Lleras for the gays. Alta Gama, as its name indicates, offers an upscale, somewhat exclusive experience for the partier looking for a little elegance.
You can’t miss it – the owners have hung two huge gay pride flags from the balcony. What’s amazing about this is that just a few years ago no business would be allowed to display the rainbow flag in the middle of the city’s most popular party center, according to manager Cristian Delgado. Doing so, he said, would invoke a visit from city officials with a mandate to take it down. Whether that would happen or not, that the straight-owned business is freely flying the flag now is an indication of the growing cultural acceptance of an out and proud LGBT community in Colombia.
The night’s I’ve visited, Alta Gama’s DJ mixed up electronic, reggaeton and pop music. From the moment you walk in, you’re greeted by a friendly member of the staff who will inform you about the drink specials. There’s no need to wait in line at the bar – the staff will take your order and bring your drinks to you, giving you more time to shake it on the enormous dance floor or chat it up with your friends.
When I’m not dancing inside, I like to hang out on the balcony that overlooks Parque Lleras. It’s the perfect place to soak up the year-round Springtime weather that Medellin is known for.
Oh! Remember to dress it up when you come to Alta Gama. I don’t think they’re going to let you in with your shorts and flip-flops.
Where: Alta Gama Nightclub, Calle 9A # 38 – 26, Medellin (Look for the rainbow flags in Parque Lleras)
Hours: Thursdays through Saturdays, 9 pm to 4 am; Sundays 9 pm to 2 am
Cover: Varies – Normally $10.000 pesos, though it may increase for special events; No cover on Sundays
More Info: https://www.facebook.com/pg/AltaGamaMed/
One of the first gay dance clubs I went to when I first visited Medellin in 2013 was a place called Purple. It was located near the Laureles neighborhood. After moving around to a few different locations, the people behind Purple brought a new vibe to the area around Parque Lleras when they opened up Lady Luck. That used to be my favorite dance spot in the city. Alas, word on the street is that their lease was up so they had to relocate, but luckily they didn’t go too far. In fact, their new location is right across from Alta Gama, on the other side of Parque Lleras.
Now called Zero, the new club opened this past weekend. I’m told there was a line out the door the whole night. If it’s anything like it’s predecessor, that’s no surprise. It always drew a mixed crowd from all over the city. The music was always a fun mix of urban, retro and electro. The dark room downstairs would pique anyone’s curiosity. You’d never know what kind of surprises might pop up around the corner as you make your way through the dimly-lit maze.
I’m still waiting for details on the new location and will update this post with a personal account once I’ve had the chance to visit.
Where: Zero Nightclub, next to Happy House in Parque Lleras
Hours: Thursdays through Saturdays, 10 pm to 4 am
Cover: Between 5.000 and 10.000 pesos
More Info: https://www.facebook.com/purpleretroclub/