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Owning a Saloon in Mexico: The Luna Blue Bar Story

Posted by Tony & Cheri on November 29, 2011

Luna Blue BarWhen we first thought about opening a bar in Mexico, we simply wanted a quiet little place for our guests to have a cocktail in the evening before and after visiting 5th Avenue.

We did have some strong opinions about how our bar should look. We wanted it to match the old-school tropical ambiance of our Luna Blue Hotel. So we decided it would be open air, with ceiling fans, a roof made of palm leaves, and–in the Caribbean tradition–swings instead of stools around the bar.

We also decided there would be no TV and no DJs playing music we didn’t enjoy. Instead we installed satellite radio and turned it to Radio Margaritaville. We wanted our bar to be funky, laid back and tropical. In short, we built the kind of place where we ourselves would want to drink margaritas.

After building the bar, we designed a few special drinks with the help of our good friend Eric Rogers, one of San Francisco’s best bartenders. We have great top shelf margaritas like the “Papa T Margarita” and twists on old favorites like the “Playa Colada.” We also have unique drinks nobody had seen before (but have since been widely copied) like the “Beso Cubano” (Cuban Kiss) and our all-time most popular drink, the “Sarita B Careful” margarita made with pomegranate infused tequila.

Leon J Morton at the Luna Blue BarOf course one of the most important parts of a bar is the bartender. And we found the perfect one in Jorge Sierra. Jorge is honest, hardworking, speaks perfect English, loves people, always has a smile and pours a strong drink. And he is creative. He is always coming up with new ideas for drinks like our very popular “Sex on the Bar” cocktail. Yes, Jorge is the inventor of Sex on the Bar!

Once we had the bar built, the drinks figured out and a great bartender hired we looked around the place and decided we needed one more thing…live music. After all what is a margarita in paradise without some good tunes to listen to? Since we couldn’t get Jimmy or Kenny, we hired local musicians whose music we liked…guys who played funky or bluesy or plain old good rock n’ roll.

Over the years the best musicians in Playa have performed at the Luna Blue. Chris Bolister, “Bad” Brad Ryan, most of the Nasty Bastards at one time or another, Barefoot Skinny, Pako Mondragon and Mike Grabow (who wrote “Where I Want to Be” about the Luna Blue). You can currently see Mike Grabow every week at the Luna Blue Bar. Even the infamous local legend Sharkey has growled “House of the Rising Sun” at the Luna Blue Bar.

This coming holiday season we are going to keep up that tradition of great music while trying to expand the type of music that is available here in Playa del Carmen. And one type of music that Playa needs more of (and we can’t get enough of) is the BLUES!

This December we are bringing back Blues Hall of Fame artist Leon J Morton. Jay (as he is known to his friends) is famous for his traditional roots Blues renditions and his bring-down-the-house performance of Blues-inspired rock n’ roll classics. Jay’s extraordinary performances have been honored by the Telluride Blues Festival and by the National Blues Hall of Fame which has designated him an “Ambassador of the Blues.” When he is in Playa Jay plays exclusively at the Luna Blue Bar.

Jay will be performing his repertoire of classic Blues songs on Friday Dec. 2nd. On Saturday, Dec. 3rd, he will be back offering his take on the best in Rock, Rhythm and Blues, as well as some original tunes. On Sunday, Dec. 4th Jay will be playing mellow and easy at our Barbeque and Pool Party.

Luna Blue BarThen later this month Brent “Guitar” Parkin will be returning to the Blue. Brent is one of the greats on the Canadian Blues scene and winner of the Canadian Recording Arts and Sciences’ prestigious Juno Award. In his forty years of performing he has toured with the likes of BB King, Johnny Winter, Otis Rush and Bo Diddley among others. The Edmonton Sun calls Brent, “one of this country’s best blues guitarists.” The Winnipeg Free Press says Brent is “One of the Prairie’s great blues guitarists.” The bottom line is that Brent puts on a heck of a show every time he plays.

Not only will Brent be a regular at the Luna Blue Bar this winter, but we are especially proud to announce he will perform at our New Years Eve celebration. That will be quite a party.

And we are pleased to announce that Brent has just agreed to play at for us on Sunday, Dec. 4th at our Barbeque and Pool Party. Both Jay Morton and Brent Parkin the same afternoon. We’re very excited!

Of course this year the Luna Blue Bar has something new: a swimming pool. Our beautiful sunken tropical garden pool is open most nights for bar guests to take a dip and float beneath the stars while sipping a margarita or listening to music. We are the only swing bar in town with its own pool. We think that is kind of special.

In the end the Luna Blue Bar turned out to be bigger and more popular than we ever dreamed. But in a lot of ways it is still exactly what we wanted when we decided to build it…it’s still a great place to get a margarita, enjoy a laid back tropical vibe and hear good tunes from great musicians. It’s also a good place to hang out and chat with your friends…or make some new ones. What more can you ask from a saloon in tropical Mexico?

And who knows…maybe someday Jimmy or Kenny will drop by…maybe.

If you’ve been to our bar or one of our events, please share your best memories in a comment below. Gracias!

Jay Morton

Mike Grabow

Barefoot SKinny

Chris Bolister

‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar

7 Responses to “Owning a Saloon in Mexico: The Luna Blue Bar Story”

  1. Tom Reed said

    Great information about The Luna Blue Bar Story…
    Also, wonderful video on Barefoot Skinny, Chris Bolister, Mike Grabow and Jay Morton…

    Thanks for sharing and see you soon!!!
    Tom Reed
    Dallas, TX
    972-839-7948
    tomr@cawb.com

  2. slomvr said

    Looking forward to coming back in Feb.

  3. Corey Sattler said

    I have had the best of times as the LB bar. Heck, I’ve even played music there! Not great music, but hey – at least I can claim it! :-) Jorge is a superstar and one helluva great dude. I’m really going to miss not being able to come this year, but I will return!! You have been warned! HA!

  4. Scott said

    The Luna Blue Bar is certainly “where I wanna be” and will be spending some time this coming February. Can’t wait……what a gem !

  5. i’ve seen them all, including the stones, the doors, janis, jimi and all the rest of them
    from a to z

    brent parkin and screamin’ jay are two of the best i have ever seen

    thanks for bringing them to playa

  6. Ana Rawa said

    I can’t wait to take a dip in the pool! What a great investment.
    LB is the BEST!

  7. Halina and Brian said

    Hola Tony and Cheri! My husband Brian and I have just returned from PDC and we both wanted you, and especially Jorge, to know how much we love him like a favourite brother and friend!! HE is the heart and the soul of the Luna Blue Bar to us. We missed him as soon as we said our goodbyes on Saturday night. We love the Luna Blue and try to come by as often as we can while spending our vacation in PDC. We hope to come back soon as I think we left OUR hearts there the other night…Thank you for the Luna Blue Bar, and please give Jorge a great big hug and an even bigger smooch from Brian and Halina from Winnipeg!! He warms us up every day when the temperature falls below 0 C in Winnipeg…

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