This Bar Missed Its Patrons. Its Idea To Reach Them Touched Others Around The World

by Kat Lonsdorf

Chances are you miss your favorite bar: The chatter, the live music, or the pour of the drink made just so. You’re not alone. 

With bars shuttered all over the world, that sense of community has now been absent for over a year. But one bar in Mexico decided to do so something about it, by recreating some of those sounds at your favorite bar for those confined at home. And that idea? Well, it took off around the world.

The bar is in Monterrey, Mexico. Started in 2012 by Oscar Romo and a few friends, it was a little neighborhood spot, with live music next to a long, wooden bar and a small patio outside.

Back then, Monterrey was emerging from a horrific string of violence from the drug cartels waging war across northern Mexico. The city was starting to come back to life, and people were finally feeling safe.

“It was a time for everyone to start interacting again, you know?,” Romo remembers.

So Romo and his friends gave Maverick a slogan: “Un Lugar de Encuentros,” or “A Place For Encounters.”

Maverick, before the pandemic, when the bar was packed with customers.
Courtesy of René Cárdenas

For the next eight years, Maverick blossomed into a cornerstone of the neighborhood, a spot where artists and musicians, writers, and others in the community could meet to unwind.

Until the pandemic hit.

“Everything was closed,” says Romo with a sigh. “We were not allowed to sell anything for two months. So the impact, it was tremendous.”

The bar was hurting. Financially, obviously, but also because that sense of community that they had worked so hard to build had evaporated overnight. Romo says it was really painful.

“I didn’t realize how important it was, you know? Those normal things that you have in life that you take for granted — and now they’re not there,” he says. 

So Romo decided to do something about it, and this is where things got interesting.

Romo enlisted the help of René Cárdenas, in charge of marketing at Maverick. Cárdenas thought of the silence of the pandemic and he soon came to a realization: It was the sounds of the bar that really brought the sense of community home.

“People come here because of the conversations, because of the atmosphere, because of the music, because of the sense of being with strangers,” Cárdenas says.

So, he decided to record each of those sounds individually. 

Like, a bartender working.

And people talking.

And street noise.

And serving drinks.

And they put all the sounds on a website, called The idea was customers could put all the sounds together, and feel like they were in Maverick, while sitting around their homes, drinking their cocktails (preferably bought to-go from the bar, of course). 

This is what it sounded like.

“But then as we were making it, we said, like, maybe this idea is bigger than us,” Cárdenas remembers. 

So they modified the website to make it something where anyone, anywhere could play around and try to best recreate the bar they miss the most.

It worked. 

The website has been getting noticed — Maverick has been getting calls from everywhere: India, Greece, Germany, the United Kingdom. 

Thousands of miles away, Max Wolff, the general manager of a cozy cocktail bar called Swift in London, was going through the same feelings of loss as his counterparts in Maverick.

“I think at first it seemed to me like it was meant to be funny, but it doesn’t seem funny anymore. It seems absolutely tragic,” Wolff says.

And when Wolff heard the sounds in the web site, he was instantly drawn to it.

“There’s no other time where you’d interact with those same people that you do in a pub. You get such a cross-section of society. And that’s the fun and exciting bit,” says Wolff. “There’s no Zoom call that can replace that.”

He shared the site with his customers. London is still in total lockdown, and bars like Swift are completely empty. Wolff says the city has lost part of its spirit — and sharing the sounds created by the Maverick team was about taking some of it back.

“We’ve now spent a year being told we’re not even allowed to breathe the same air of strangers. When bars open again, are we still going to be programmed to think, ‘Oh, no, I don’t want to share this table, I don’t want to share this dance floor?’,” Wolff wonders.

It isn’t just those chaotic and surprising interactions that are missing. Bars all over the world are in danger of disappearing. Just in the United States, an estimated 100,000 bars and restaurants have closed during the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Marcio Duarte is one of those struggling bar owners around the world. He runs a small bar named Machimbombo in Lisbon, Portugal. 

“Business here is gone, like anywhere else right?” says Duarte. “Ninety percent of the bars here that were struggling, they will not exist after the pandemic.”

Marcio Duarte, owner of Machimbombo, a small cocktail bar in Lisbon, Portugal, stands outside his establishment. Business has been tough amidst nightlife restrictions during the pandemic.
Courtesy of Marcio Duarte

Like in many cities around the world, nightlife has been largely banned in Lisbon, though the restrictions are finally starting to lift.

Duarte’s bar has been hanging on by pivoting to selling food during the day, but it’s been tough.

So when he came across, he put it on surround sound speakers. It gave him hope.

“It encouraged me! It’s a beautiful thing — it’s living, it’s alive that experience, and we will chase that again,” Duarte says with a smile. “I know for God’s sake, the day we open the bar the happiest person there will be me, equally with everyone.”

Oscar Romo, at Maverick in Mexico, says he’s been surprised at how the website he helped create has taken off around the world.

To him, it speaks to the importance of bars like his in the social fabric – and how helped bring that reality home. 

“What we want also is for people to realize how important are bars in our lives, really, not just from the drinking perspective, but from the social life,” Romo says. “It’s like please — don’t forget about us. Don’t forget about how a bar improves life in society.”

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In ‘Tigers Are Not Afraid,’ A Dark Fantasy Amid Mexico’s Drug War

By Leila Fadel

Estrella, age 11, is granted three magical wishes after a tragic event at her school — only to find out that her fate is about to take an even worse turn. It sounds like the beginning of a dark fairy tale, but the movie, Tigers Are Not Afraid, is far more than that.

It takes place during Mexico’s violent, bloody drug war. Estrella’s mother is taken by the cartels, and in trying to find her mom, she meets a boy named Shine, who wears a tiger mask. He lives on the street and leads a gang of fellow orphans, helping each other survive the constant violence around them while chasing the ghosts of their parents.

Tigers Are Not Afraid (titled Vuelven in Spanish) is now beginning a limited theatrical release in North America in advance of its arrival on the horror-specific streaming service Shudder. It’s written and directed by Issa López, who says that “reality” inspired her to make the film.

“There’s a universal fascination with the figure of the drug lord, and with the cartels, and a certain type of romance even, which is terrible, that has emerged from it,” she says. “But nobody is talking about the children left to their own devices because their parents have been taken, their parents were displaced or sometimes killed. Nobody is addressing this as the proper war it is. And I felt that we needed that story; someone needed to do it.”

Of course, the film also has plenty of fantastical elements.

“I love fairy tales, I love fantasy and I love horror,” López says. “And I thought this was a great opportunity to go into all of that.”

Interview Highlights

On losing her own mother at a young age

My mom died of natural causes, but it was very unexpected and sudden. And many, many times you don’t realize that you’re dragging a ghost behind you. And I was just about to go into production when one of my friends pointed out that it was my personal story, and it floored me. I hadn’t seen it.

On developing the line of blood that follows Estrella around the movie

As I was writing the first scenes, I created this image of a girl that has to leave school because there was a shootout right outside. And she sees a dead body, which happens frequently in the war culture. And she watches it for a second and then turns around and walks away. And that’s not something you can do with violence — you can’t turn your back and walk away. It will come after you until you look at it and you understand what’s going on. And as I’m writing that scene, and she turns around from the pool of blood, a line of blood starts following her. And it became sort of the leitmotif of the movie: How death will come with you, will walk with you, until you accept and embrace the situation you are in. …

I think that it’s the perfect view to understand a broken universe. But also: I’m Mexican. I’m deeply Latin American. And the entire thing about Latin America is magical thinking, and witchcraft, and ghosts, and leading with our death. So it was just a matter of sitting down to write at the very beginning, and not trying to pull the story in that direction, but simply getting out of the way for the story to tell itself.

On tackling social and political issues with magical realism

Yes. I think that if you’re attempting to bring these things to the conversation of the social classes that make the decisions in Mexico — which is [the] middle class and upper class — they don’t want to watch movies about children suffering because of political corruption. So what you do is: You make a movie of a genre that makes it easier. And the interesting phenomenon was that it worked around the world. And I think it’s important to understand what are the true horrors that these children are facing, especially when two years after the movie opened at a festival for the first time, we find ourselves in a version of the United States where children that cross the border to survive this [drug] war are being put in cages. So it’s particularly urgent. And if horror is going to be the way to deliver this message, fantastic. Let’s go with it.

On how a movie specific to Mexico has landed internationally

Issa López: What is striking is: I set out to make a movie about a very peculiar, particular situation, which is what Mexico is going through right now. But I found that many of the themes that the movie touches upon, you can find them across the world. So for example, there is a gender violence happening in the movie, which is the origin of the story. In Canada, Native women are disappearing in big numbers; I think that I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know. And then you play the movie in a city like Belfast, where they still have walls to divide one side from the other, and they understand bullets flying around town. It is not a good thing that the movie is understood deeply in so many places. It’s actually worrisome.

Leila Fadel: There was one scene in the movie where the kids were playing make-believe on a stage. And I remember a very specific [experience] going to a place with Syrian refugees where they were acting out, in a very funny way, the war that was going on around them. And it just felt so familiar.

López: That’s — you know, I didn’t know that. But that’s so moving because, again, through telling stories and fables, and playing and performing for each other, they try to make sense of the world. And yeah, it was a natural thing to happen. … It’s just inside children to stand up and create a character and portray it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s in [Arabic] or it’s in Russian or in Korean, or — it doesn’t matter what language.

On being a woman in a male-dominated horror-film industry

Something funny happened just as the movie was opening: The whole #MeToo movement exploded. And I’ve been front row, watching the changes that it’s created. And I’m not saying that it has fixed anything, but I am saying that at least now we’re observant of a phenomenon where the numbers simply don’t make sense. The percentages don’t make sense.

I’ve been in so many conversations about genre and gender. And it’s really interesting because in Spanish, the word for both things is the same — is género. And here’s the deal: I don’t believe neither in genre nor in gender. I believe in the stories that need to be told. … And I’m telling you, we need to start telling stories from a different point of view, if, for nothing else, for the sake of not getting bored, you know? We need to hear a new voice, a new take. And the fact that women and LGBT community … are standing up and just taking the stage is allowing the world to hear different stories and different voices. And that is priceless.

Sophia Alvarez Boyd and Ed McNulty produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted it for the Web.