Six nights a week, a heaving group of youths trawls from bar to bar in Palermo or San Telmo, toasting each bar with a raucous ‘Salud’ before landing in a nearby club for a heavy bump n’ grind session. This is the Buenos Aires Pub Crawl, bringing together the travelling twenty-somethings and students of Buenos Aires for a night of alcohol-fuelled debauchery.
The Pub Crawl has now spawned the Out and About Pub Crawl – ‘Latin America’s Only Gay Pub Crawl’ that takes place every Thursday in Palermo. General manager of the Buenos Aires Pub Crawl, Daniel Miranda, is gay and wanted to create a pub crawl that would take advantage of the abundance of gay-friendly spots in Buenos Aires.
This pub crawl costs $130 and starts at Koh Lanta in Palermo. For an hour, pub crawlers are invited to drink as much wine or beer as they wish, whilst being served picadas. During this time, the staff will introduce everyone and make an effort to help the participants socialise. Although in the early part of the evening this has an awkward school disco feel about it, the free-flowing wine soon helps this dissipate into cocktail party ambience.
The crawl then travels through Quiroz, Bach and Sitges bars. At each one, everyone is given a shot to loosen the tongue and ease the joints. The music pumps loudly at Bach and people can bust a groove and throw some shapes. The atmosphere is altogether more predatory at Sitges with the entire room turning to appraise the fresh meat that has walked in, so pub crawlers can take advantage of the drinks special, ‘Piel de Iguana’ (skin of Iguana), to give them a bit of Dutch courage.
The end of the line is the notorious club Amerika, famous for the ‘tunnel’, a dark room that has been witness to many unmentionable acts of debauchery. What happens afterwards is your choice: perhaps you will continue partying till dawn with some new friends. Or perhaps, you will end the night like one of the pub crawl staff members – lying in a gutter, unable to move and weeping over ‘Piel de Iguana’.
This new pub crawl is in its early stages, but Kyle Phillips-Thomas, who leads the group of pub crawlers is confident that it is a niche market that will grow. He claims that staff members on the standard pub crawl are often approached by people who want something similar that is not just targeted towards very young travellers or students. He also hints that, as well as the Out and About Pub Crawl, they might be looking to expand in other ways.
I took issue with the idea that a more sophisticated concept was being exclusively marketed towards gays and asked him why a more expensive pub crawl had been chosen. He was fairly brazen with his response: “Gays have more disposable income. They don’t have families. They enjoy the finer things in life.” Make of this what you will. He may be right about the gay community. The Buenos Aires Pub Crawl has been working with gay travel organisations such as Buegay to promote the new pub crawl, so perhaps that is what gay travellers are looking for.
However, Kyle also insists that the pub crawl is more gay-friendly than for gays only and, in fact, the night that I was there, there were a fair number of heterosexuals. That said, straight people looking for a night of frolics with the opposite sex will have to resign themselves to some cheeky booty-shaking as some of the locales are definitely gay-bars, rather than just gay-friendly.
So, if you’re feeling flush, gay or straight, and enjoy the finer things in life, get yourself to Koh Lanta on a Thursday night for a pub crawl with service. It offers a choice of sophisticated nightlife options, but also the opportunity to engage in the same drunken madness as the main pub crawl. If wine and cheese sounds more like your scene than beer and pizza, I say go ahead and splash out: make sure you’re not the only gay in the village.
Out and About Pub Crawl takes place from 9pm every Thursday in Palermo and costs $130. See http://www.OutAndAboutPubCrawl.com