Liliana "Lil" Lovell (born September 29, 1967) is an entrepreneur, best known as the founder the Coyote Ugly Saloon and Ugly Inc. Lovell was the host of the reality TV show The Ultimate Coyote Ugly Search. In the 2000 movie Coyote Ugly, she was portrayed by Maria Bello.
Liliana Lovell grew up in Westchester county, N.Y. She graduated from New York University with a degree in psychology and communications. During college, she worked as a bartender in New York City. While working on Wall Street as an investment banking intern, she made $200 a week. After making $300 a night pouring drinks, she started bar tending at a cowboy bar, the Village Idiot, to make money full-time. Lovell managed the Idiot for three years, where she perfected her unique routine of dancing on the bar, singing, and challenging customers to drinking contests. She learned her business model "beautiful girls + booze = money" from her boss, and notorious bar owner, Tom McNeill. Lovell left to start her own bar with partner, and now husband, Tony Piccirillo. They leased a failed Italian eatery across the street from the Idiot and opened the Coyote Ugly Saloon on January 27, 1993. Modeled after the Village Idiot, Coyote Ugly was one of the original cowboy concept bars in the Village. Others, like Doc Holliday's, Red Rock West, and Yogi's soon followed.
Coyote Ugly Saloon
The Coyote Ugly Saloon was a popular New York City bar from 1993 to 1997. In 1997, the bar was propelled into the national spotlight when former bartender Elizabeth Gilbert wrote of her experiences in a story for Gentlemen's Quarterly magazine, called "The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon." In the article, she described Lovell's idea of a Coyote bartender:
Early in my own Coyote Ugly Saloon career, I made the mistake of saying to a customer, "Here's your beer, sir." Lil overheard and shouted, "Don't ever call anyone in this place 'sir'!" So I said, "I'm terribly sorry. I meant to say, 'Here's your beer, douche bag.' " Lil and the customer laughed. And I thought, Oh, I get it, but I am a very quick study. Some bartenders were friendly but not relaxed, so they didn't last. Some bartenders were gorgeous but not sexy, so what's the point? Some bartenders laughed a lot but were not funny themselves, so that didn't work, either.
She hired young women and taught them her wild routine, which included such antics as chugging alcohol, setting light to it, and then breathing fire. While some girls were good at singing, others good at dancing, and others good at yelling, Lovell found that not all the girls were talented in each of the three aspects, so she often paired girls with complementary abilities.
Disney bought the rights to Gilbert's story and adapted it into the movie Coyote Ugly, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Coyote Ugly is a romantic comedy/drama released in August 2000 (See 2000 in film). The film stars Piper Perabo and Adam Garcia with a small role by Tyra Banks. It was directed by David McNally and written by Gina Wendkos. Lovell was played by Maria Bello. The film grossed over $61 million and received mixed reviews.
Tourists began packing the bar after the release of the movie looking for a re-creation of the experience.
Building on the national exposure, Lovell created Ugly Inc., a licensing company. The company follows a standard licensing scheme, in addition to a $50,000 fee, licensees pay 5% of gross sales and 25% of merchandise sales. In October 2001, the first expansion bar opened in Las Vegas, Nevada, inside the New York, New York casino. Others were opened in Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, and San Diego. Lovell, herself, opened another bar in New Orleans.
As she planned to expand internationally, she discovered that Jorge Manterola, brother of Mexican singer Patricia Manterola, had set up a website for Coyote Ugly's "master franchise" in Latin America. The website claimed: "Just like you have seen in the movie, there will be very preety [sic] and sensual women from all over the world serving drinks, dancing on the bar, and doing the most funniest and unimaginable things." Lovell responded with legal action which resulted in a deal. She helped Manterola open a Coyote Ugly in Cabo San Lucas on the condition that he paid license royalties. While she could revoke the license if Manterola didn't pay, she had little control over the bar's operations.
In 2002, Ugly Inc. had revenues of $1.5 million from licensing fees and royalties. As of 2003, the nine bars collectively generated between $22 million and $24 million annually and employed 300 people. Building on her Cabo experience, Lovell decided to maintain controlling interest in all future Coyote Ugly Saloons in an effort to protect the brand.
The Ultimate Coyote Ugly Search
In 2006, Lovell began hosting The Ultimate Coyote Ugly Search, a reality TV show on Country Music Television (CMT). The premise of the show involved Lovell auditioning young women to become the next "coyote". With the help from a few of her "coyote mentors", Lil trained girls to become bartenders, dancers, and all around entertainers. The winner received $25,000 and the title of "Ultimate Coyote".
In 2007, the series reappeared on CMT Canada. In this version, the series was based on teams. Lil chose five of her best Coyotes from bars across the country. Each of those coyotes would then hold auditions at their home bars to find teammates for the competition. The teams for the competition were:
|Fort Lauderdale||"Wiggins"||Amanda "Red"|
Team New York won in 2007, and were awarded $50,000. The third and final season of the show was held in 2008.