Chip's Bar. In 2012 the transgender bartender known as Eli would promptly kick out by force anyone that was caught smoking or doing any drugs.
“I almost had a heart attack. I just witnessed gunshots at [Bar] Chip's,” my friend Amayrani posted on Facebook at around 1 am after the incident. I caught up with Amayrani the day after the shooting at her work in Mamut Brewery. She lives next to Chip's Bar and was still shaking from the altercation as she narrated to her coworkers what happened as she entered her home the previous night.
“I just froze. I was right outside the door when I heard the gunshots, then I saw two guys running out with their guns and jumping inside a truck,” Amayrani tells me in person. “I was scared to stay in my apartment, I went upstairs, grabbed my money, got in a taxi libre, and went to my boyfriend's place for the night. I am moving out of there as soon as I can.”
Two men and one woman were shot inside Chip's Bar in Calle Sexta on Wednesday, April 5, a few minutes after the clock struck midnight. This was the second shooting on Calle Sexta within the same week. The newspaper Zeta reported that the perpetrators escaped in a white Ford Explorer and identified the business as “Bar Cheese.” The victims were transported to Tijuana’s general hospital where they were reported in stable condition. One of the victims died later the same day.
Due to an eclectic and surprisingly great jukebox, Chip's Bar has been one of my favorite dive bars since before I moved to Tijuana in 2012. When I first started visiting Chip's, the establishment was a dirty after-hours dive bar frequented by metal and hard-rock musicians and underground artists, though the bar was originally a drinking hole for mechanics. Back then, the transgender bartender known as Eli would promptly kick out by force anyone that was caught smoking or doing any drugs.
The last time I drank a caguama at Chip's Bar was on a late night on a Saturday in November of last year. The place reeked of crystal meth and someone offered me heroin in the bathroom. The young dealer was burning a piece of tin foil that had a tan and black tar on the tip while he inhaled from a short distance and gestured me to try it. I shook my head and looked the other way. On the other side of the bathroom, a group of meth users piled near the toilet stall promptly told me “that they were not sharing with me,” when I was simply trying to use the urinal. I went back to my seat on the bar with a bad taste in my mouth and did not go to the bathroom or to the back of the establishment again and finished my beer while I observed the chaos.
The bar was a display of complete anarchy the likes of which I have not witnessed before. The bouncer and bartenders, including Eli, turned a blind eye to all the drug consumption and dealings, which were more than abundant in the back of the bar. They would only interfere if a fight broke loose or if drugs were used near the entrance.
This type of environment is common in bars inside Zona Norte, but it is increasingly becoming more common inside bars on Calle Sexta, a street that just a year ago acted as Tijuana’s friendly tourist party center but now acts as a war zone-disputed narco turf.
News and media outlets from outside of Tijuana like the L.A. Times, New York Times, and several other sources, have been publishing very similar stories praising Tijuana’s “revolution.” The headlines are along the lines of “discover the amazing things Tijuana has to offer!” Followed by a list of places that I have personally been covering for the Reader since late 2013. My very first story for the Reader mentions the street where Chip's Bar is situated.
On the other side of the coin, Tijuana news sources have been publishing the same story almost daily since the beginning of 2017. The articles are about nightly assaults, numerous car robberies, house break-ins, murders, and the return of narco violence all over the city. Los malandros andan con todo ahorita (the bad guys are hitting heavy right now) is a common phrase currently uttered amongst citizens. More and more each week my newsfeed has reports of friends who have witnessed or have fallen to Tijuana’s renewed crime surge.
More than ever before, I roam the streets of Tijuana with extra care. If uneasy or if I am carrying my camera, I resort to Uber to get home safely.