LIVE IN COSTA RICA  – With the closing of Joe B’s Bar and the recent death of Bobby Dempsey, the owner of Papi’s Bar, the cover has virtually been nailed on the coffin of the downtown gringo bar scene.


Gringo Gulch is the downtown area of San José that is famous for its ardent nightlife and drinking establishments. This part of town, extends south from Parque Morazán to Avenida 2 and from Calle 9 to Calle 6, and is frequented mostly by single- male tourists, ladies and men of the night and old-time gringo barflies.

For the latter it will now be more difficult to find a place to drink or hang out because of the events which I mentioned in the first paragraph. About the only drinking establishments that are left are the newly-revamped Poás Bar and Chubbs Bar, which has become one of the most popular bars for both locals and expatriates. Of course, there are always the Hotel Del Rey, Key Largo or the Sportsman’s Lodge but these establishments are mainly geared towards foreign tourists looking for female company and are not so much expat stomping grounds.

This is quite a contrast to the early days of the San José gringo bar scene during the 80s, 90s and first ten years of this century. During those times there was a bevy of expat hangouts where you could grab a cold beer and gather with friends and foes to shoot the breeze, keep up on local gossip and life in the tropics.

Nashville South, Lucky’s Piano Blanco Bar, both New York Bars (the old and the newer one), La Rana Feliz which later became Happy Days and Nights, La Belladonna, Roger’s Bar, Porkey’s Grupo 19 and Tiny’s Tropical Sports Bar all dotted the downtown landscape and expat bar scene.

Those days are long gone as are most of the local characters who have passed on to a better life. We’ll never again see the likes of a Tiny Phelps, Don Auggie, Jay the bartender, Jimmy Adams, Jessie Matias, Pat Dunn, Sailor Bill and many other adventurers who made the downtown area and Costa Rica a virtual melting pot for expats from all walks of life.

This was before the invasion of the baby boomers, real estate carpetbaggers, cloistered expat suburbanites, overnight experts, wannabes and other neophytes who came to the country and jumped on the bandwagon between the years 2000 and now. I only wish these people had met some of the interesting pioneers who blazed the trail and put Costa Rica on the map for all of us.

Article by Christopher Howard, Live in Costa Rica Blog, reprinted with permission

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