In a new feature that aims to shine a light on bear bars, clubs or other hangouts, we turn our spotlight on The Bear Tavern Puerto Rico. We invited the owners, Gaby & Ismael Acosta, to tell us about their venue, and here is what they had to say.
The Bear Tavern opened its door on May 2017, four months before Hurricane María. We were not the first people to attempt to open a bear bar in San Juan and in the beginning it was difficult to bring the bear out of their caves, but little by little they came out.
Three local bear and leather organizations – Puerto Rico Bear Events, Puerto Rico Bear Community and San Juan Metro Leather Men – saw the potential The Bear Tavern had and rallied behind our project. We must also give thanks to the Puerto Rico LGBT Chamber of Commerce for their tremendous support.
My partner Gaby Acosta, manager and Head Bartender and myself, Ismael Acosta, saw the need for a place not only to serve drinks and dance, but to create a community. The bars in San Juan, as good and fun as they may be, are just a repetition of the same formula. The culture they promote is not one of acceptance to big or hairy guys or those interested in leather and fetish… in other words, Bears and the leather community. We knew we must open a place of acceptance and diversity, a place where men could take their shirt off and show their true colors and interests, while singing, dancing, celebrating, and meeting friends or lovers. We have even had a few weddings already!
The Bears have turned out and we have been able to reignite a flame that some bear community leaders saw almost extinguished after so many disappointments. Our Bear Community grows everyday as other bears see what we are doing for the LGBT community. Things like raising money for the Pride March, hosting arts shows for local gay artists, poetry readings, hosting a market for arts, crafts & local artists, helping in the community food bank & homeless shelter, and HIV prevention.
The Bear Tavern was the first gay venue in San Juan to open its door after Hurricane Maria with an emergency power generator and it was an adventure to find ice! It became the place to get in touch with friends, networking, and for asking & receiving help. We had customers that lost everything, others were traumatized and unemployed. We became, as a customer wrote on Facebook, the oasis, a place to come and not feel alone, to be able to talk and cry, to get a meal, celebrate life and get some hope. We had some damage to the building’s roof and it leaked, but everybody was happy to be there!
The Bear Tavern moved across the street to a larger space in July of 2018 and we have been full ever since and able to do more activities. The address is the same, the corner between Loiza Street and Degetau Street, you can’t miss it!
The Bear Tavern is open Thursday to Sunday. On Thursdays we have movies, games and artistic activities. Fridays & Sundays are Karaoke Nights with Ricky and Saturday DJ Charlie Rivera bring the best mixes of house, electronic, classics, Disco and Latin music. The second Saturday of the month we have Menenergy (underwear, jocks, singlets, kilts and more) and the last Saturday of the month is our Leather Night, both are just for men.
We have great plans for 2019. Starting on January 27, we’ll have Tea Dances on Sunday, starting at 4 PM, for all the bears and friends who need a place to gather after the beach or chinchorreo (as we call the tradition of going out with family and friends to eat and drink, drive around the island and have fun).
Soon we’ll be electing our Mr. Puerto Rico Bear 2019 and Mr. Puerto Rico Leather 2019. We are already working on our Pride March float! And, of Course, our special events throughout the year including The Leather Ball, Bear Pride, Folsom Street Marketplace & Dance, Retro Halloween and so much more!
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