La Cupula is everything I’d hoped a vampire bar in Tijuana would be. At first I’d pictured an all-out monster mash: freaks sipping gore-toned cocktails and stomping around to industrial remixes of 45 Grave. It was, after all, post-twilight on a near full-moon Friday evening. But the reality of the venue, which is hidden beneath El Travieso billiard hall, was even better.
Within the crepuscule den, most of the ten or so clients huddled in small covens on sofas, deliberating matters occult. Joy Division and the Cure bled from the stereo as an androgynous figure in black stared sedately into a MacBook. Human skulls dangled from the ceiling in birdcages. Cigarettes were lit from candelabras on the way to a smoking patio replete with Edward Scissorhands and The Crow stencils. A Siamese cat traipsed across the cavern and, aloof to the entreats of several patrons, swayed over to a bag of treats that had been sitting on the bartop all along.
“His name is Ghost,” the bartender said before I headed off to the urinal, where cockroaches scurried to circumvent the porcelain pot.
The overall effect feels like a Hot Topic that has finally pushed through puberty and just come of age to take its first sip of beer. The mood is much more creepy café than ghastly soiree, and the crowd is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in TJ. Bookish brunettes in curly, unkempt locks and others in razor-sharp gothic combovers gather around tables sharing 40s of Tecate, speaking in hushed tones. They appear supernatural, like something out of an early ’90s film, and I entertain fantasies of smoking cloves together in bed, reading passages from Crowley or Lovecraft, and watching campy horror flicks until dawn. But how does one approach such an anomaly? Have I even beheld her true form?
If the cozy café with a dark side doesn’t appeal, try a Saturday night (especially the last of the month) for live punk, deathrock, psychobilly, dark electro, EBM, and ’80s dance parties. Or, if you’re feeling blood — er, bold — invite one of the resident vamps to a spooky movie night every Thursday or Friday. Other special events can include anything from tarot readings to storytelling of local legends to bondage demonstrations.
There’s also billiards and foosball, but the table games can’t shake a white oak stake at the nocturnal curiosities that haunt this eclectic cave.
- La Cupula del Vampiro, Tijuana, between Segundo and Tercera in the alleyway, half block west of Revolución
- Attire: Stately LeStat
- Prices: Caguamas, $4; café drinks, $3.50
- Hours: Wed–Thurs, 3 P.M. to midnight; Fri–Sat, 3 P.M. to 2 a.m.
- Capacity: about 100
- Food: Thurs–Fri, usual bar fare, under $4
- Cards: No