A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.

Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013

Tijuana revives part of its past

Bambi nightclub, a once-racy establishment visited in decades past by U.S. tourists, is reborn as Bambi Steak House and Sports Bar on Avenida Revolución

      bambi steakhouse and sports barWhen Robert Kidd was a young man growing up in Huntington Beach 45 years ago, he came to Tijuana to visit the Bambi nightclub, famous for its scantily clad women. It was the place to go for many young American men then.

      On Tuesday, Kidd, an artist who now lives in Rosarito, showed up for the rebirth of Bambi, whose building had fallen into great disrepair. This go-round, Bambi is a wholesome steakhouse and and sports bar on Avenida Revolución.

      enrique chiu and his mural at bambi steakhouseAt Tuesday's inauguration, a mural by Enrique Chiu representing the establishment's past was unveiled. "He nails it," Kidd said. "He got the atmosphere: It was smoky, it was dark, it was enticing, it was like a woman half-undressed."

     Asked why he had come to Bambi's 45 years ago, he replied, "Where else is a 17 or 18 year old kid going to come if he lives (in Southern California)?... You're going to have to come to Tijuana."

      Chiu, 31, (seen in photo at right of mural) said his next project will be a mural at a school near City Hall.

      Among the new owners of the club is Alberto Sandoval, whose Alianza Civíca organization has been dedicated to the revival of Tijuana's downtown. Story on Bambi in the Alianza Civica online magazine (page 5).

      In 1986, the Los Angeles Times wrote that at "the notorious Bambi Club,... the latest generation of sailors keeps alive the decades-old tradition of chugging $2 beers while watching topless women with grotesquely painted faces dance around on stage."

Mari Zavala Alberto Sandoval Alejandra Casas Bambi      The Alianza Civíca magazine says the restaurant has been remodeled to resemble a 1940s burlesque-style establishment, and three young women wearing burlesque outfits mingled with a large opening-day crowd Tuesday. In photo, Sandoval is flanked by Mari Zavala (left) and Alejandra Casas.