Lil Lovell - Founder of The Coyote Ugly Saloon

Date: MAY 23rd, 2012

Topic: Interview with a CEO

The Coyote Ugly Saloon began with a girl, a dream and a little bit of Wild Turkey. In 1992, Liliana “Lil” Lovell, a 24-year old Wall Street apprentice-turned bartender was living a good life. She was doing a job she loved, making money, and gaining notoriety for her antics on the bar as well as behind it.

Tired of working for other people, she was ready to make her move. The plan was simple: open her own bar, make money, and have fun doing it. Determined not to let anyone or anything get in her way, she drew up a business plan: beautiful girls + booze = money.

The first Coyote Ugly Saloon located in NYC officially opened its doors on January 27, 1993 and is still open for business. There are 18 other Saloons open world wide with more on the way.

Today, Lil resides in New Orleans with her son. Although she is busy running her company and jetting around the globe scouting new locations for Coyote Ugly, Lil frequently can be found at her New York and French Quarter bars. She expects to see you soon.

BeTheBoss - Tell us about the Coyote Ugly Saloon concept?

Lil Lovell - Well, this is the opening from our franchise disclosure document (written by lawyers for lawyers): “Coyote Ugly Saloon” is a chain of bars (some with restaurants) based primarily in the United States. It is known for, among other things, its bartenders who not only pour drinks, but also perform choreographed dance routines on the bartop. The first Coyote Ugly Saloon was opened in January, 1993 in New York’s East Village, where it is still located.

For me though, Coyote Ugly Saloon is about female empowerment and of course making money. Women can get on the bar and dance in a safe environment. Men and women buy drinks. Lots of drinks, hence money making.

BTB - How and when did you become involved with Coyote Ugly?

LL - I founded the company and opened the first Coyote Ugly Saloon in 1993 in NYC. I was working as a bartender at a bar across the street from where the Coyote Ugly Saloon is today. I noticed the place was for rent and I rented it.

BTB - What was your background prior to opening Coyote Ugly?

LL - Bartender and managed other bars. I was also a stockbroker trainee. During college and afterwards I did almost all jobs in the service industry. It was a natural progression opening my own place.

BTB - What are some of the advantages in being a Coyote Ugly franchisee?

LL - You hit the ground running with a famous name. Don’t get me wrong, you have to be a skilled and capitalized operator, but the fame of the name and the concept sure helps. You also get excellent training from our expert team in managing your Coyote Ugly on front of the house work, back of the house work and marketing.

BTB - Who is your ideal franchisee?

LL - An experienced and well capitalized operator. Someone who is in for the long term. This business isn’t about being a popular nightclub for two or three years and then closing down or selling. Coyote Ugly is about longevity. I opened the NYC Saloon in 1993. It’s still going strong!

BTB - Tell us a little about your industry?

LL - Well, I don’t want to stereotype, but Canada has always seemed to me to be about beer drinking. The popularity of our reality show in Canada makes it a perfect fit . Canada is wide open . I can see a Saloon in every major Canadian city-Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver………We just need good franchisees.

BTB - What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?

LL - Choose operators wisely. Whether it’s your managers or potential franchisees take time to interview (and be interviewed by them). It’s your concept, your franchise, but they will be the ones representing your concept to the public.

BTB - Do you have a mentor and is their someone you use for inspiration?

LL - That's difficult . I admire CEO's that stick to their brand concept. I hate a sell out!

BTB - What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

LL - If you don't have experience in the bar restaurant business then find a partner that has extensive experience. Research your market . And be well capitalized.

BTB - In your opinion, why do you think that Coyote Ugly would be a great opportunity for someone?

LL - As I mentioned earlier, the Canadian market is wide open. I see a Saloon in every major Canadian city over the coming years. And most importantly we are all making money!