Plaza Fiesta Heralds a New Generation of Bars in Tijuana
By Genáro Valladolid
Way back in time in Tijuana in the mid 80’s there was a place called Plaza Fiesta that started as a place for fancy restaurants, doctor’s offices and boutiques among other things. Some of today’s better known restaurants such as Saverio’s and La Taberna Española got their start there. A couple of the restaurants started having a party atmosphere and all of a sudden and without any planning (like many things in TJ) it became Tijuana’s favorite nightspot. Bars sprang up overnight and Plaza Fiesta was true to it’s name with hundreds of Tijuanenses partying at the bars and in the alleys in the shopping center. You could buy a cold beer in one place and walk over to another bar to continue the party (I sure miss those times). The restaurants and other businesses started leaving and only the bars and party atmosphere were left behind.
Bars like Sotano Suizo, Ranas, Mi Barra, Monte Picacho, Porky’s, Chez and many others had Tijuana partying every day of the week for over twenty years initially with an alternative vibe which then turned into more of a club scene and eventually into a dreaded (for me and many, many others) norteño scene. When this started happening many of the alternative and club kids stopped going to Plaza Fiesta because it was filled with “mangueras”, kind of like Mexico’s wannabe gangsters, and most of the bars started closing. But to every bad side there’s a good side.
After La Mezcalera opened, Porky’s, Chez and Zebra Mexican Pub moved to Calle 6ta to take advantage of the new scene being born in Downtown Tijuana, AKA El Centro, and created a new alternative destination. A ton of bars opened up but after only about two years Calle 6ta has lost some of its luster although it still gets pretty packed on weekends. So what happens now? You guessed it! Tijuana’s in the know hip party people are going back to Plaza Fiesta where a new generation of bars is opening up.
On this night four bars got together with students from Universidad Iberoamericana to organize an event called Playing For Change to foster positive change through music and arts education for children around the world. The new bars at La Plaza are El Depa, El Tigre, La Prisión and 664 which is Tijuana’s area code. El Depa and El Tigre are where the action is. The owners of these four bars are working together to make La Plaza a destination for Tijuana and San Diego’s mipsters (Mexican hipsters) and bar hoppers once again. I could sense this feeling of community as I spoke with Leo Soto of El Depa. His bar is actually a converted apartment that has different “rooms”. One of them is like a dining room with a large round table where some local students where having a great time and I had to join them and drink a couple of cervezas for the sake of this review. Most of them said that they used to go to Calle 6ta but feel that El Depa has more personality and a community feel to it. El Depa also has a great terrace with grills to get a “carne asada” going and overlooks the action below. I had a few friends there so we decided to pool our vast resources and were able to entice one of the employees to go across the street to buy some meat, vegetables, tortillas and salsa to get our barbecue going.
Leo mentioned that El Depa has a house party vibe and it was definitely the case on this night with everybody relaxing by the barbeque with a bunch of friends listening to really cool music.
After our “carne asada” we went downstairs to El Tigre and had a conversation with Juan Carlos Bucio who is a veteran of Tijuana’s nightlife scene. He mentioned that they were looking for a place to open a bar and chose La Plaza after talking with some friends. They all agreed to work together to create a scene and chose La Plaza because of its location and low rents. El Tigre is on the ground floor so they have live bands most weeks that people can enjoy from the shared patio out front. On this night they had everything from DJ’s to rock bands and folk singers. The artists playing on this occasion were Sixties Guns, La Tira Cómica and Deck B and had the crowd dancing and having fun. One of the great things about “having” to go to bars for reviews is having people bringing you a beer in the middle of an interview and that is exactly what happened. Juan Carlos brought me one of the local brews that they have on tap. On this occasion they had Ley Seca Pale Ale and Silenius Brown Ale and both of them were great. The bands were playing inside El Tigre and people were watching from a small plaza with a fountain out front. Xavi Vilaplana, AKA Sixties Guns, and Sofia Medina were among the organizers of the Playing For Change event. They mentioned that their goal was to show that Tijuana also has a good side and that it’s not all about partying. The city has been maligned for a long time but there’s a new generation of socially conscious kids that want to make a difference.
It is really great to see young kids working together to offer people from both sides of the border a new place to hear great music, party in a community atmosphere and being active in social causes. I recommend you come and visit Tijuana’s best kept secret before it blows up. La Plaza has gone through many incarnations throughout the last couple of decades. It is once again being transformed into a gathering place for Tijuana’s in crowd.
Video : Plaza Fiesta
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