9 Bars and Clubs We Miss From the 2000s
Back in the day—and by ‘back’, we mean 10 to 15 years ago—before the resurgence of speakeasy-type hidey holes—the coolest bars to be in were in plain sight. You could still get to Makati from QC in 30 minutes tops. Selfies were taken with the Sony Cybershots we stashed in our bag, not our Motorolas. You could light up a cig anywhere and not be judged. Craft cocktails at P450 a glass? Pfft. Unheard of!
It was a different time indeed—a time we look back fondly upon as the days we could drink three bad lychee martinis plus a shot of Jagermeister and show up unscathed for work the next day like a soldier. And though we’ve traded in nights that begin at midnight with day drinking and being home for dinner, we’ll always have a soft spot for these beloved watering holes and all the debauchery that came with them.
It was the scene’s first taste of a superclub, and what a club it was. On any given weekend, there was always a line out front that got longer and louder past midnight. They even had a legitimate “door bitch,” and managed to pull that whole thing off. It’s no bar where “everybody knows your name,” for sure, and it was likely too intimidating for some. Embassy had a reputation for being the stomping grounds of the upper crust, after all, not to mention being an infamous hotspot for one-too-many headline-making brawls that once caused a very public shutdown. But there was no doubt that Embassy shook things up, showing the partying public there’s more fun to be had outside the confines of the usual bar.
But when you’re a little too tired (or old) for Embassy and all its shenanigans, its posh sister establishment next door was where you went to see and be seen. Sunken couches, gold curtains, house music, unfinished Cosmopolitans… It was all very Sex and the City. It had tables perfect for big groups and enough space around it for mingling, plus a whole second floor that offered a nice view of the pit. At 2AM it was where night owls from all over converged, whether for a late night snack or a nightcap.
Here’s the culprit why cars were lined up on Valero until the wee hours of the morning. “Ponti” had the fiercest following despite the unassuming location so close to Makati CBD. It’s the kind of place that was never not busy on a Friday or Saturday night, filled to the capacity with tribes of party-goers who’ve downed too much Azzurri and Bend Me Over shakers. College kids danced up a storm in there, sometimes on tables. When it closed in 2014 after a 16-year run, the farewell was bittersweet, spawning hashtags like #pontiforever #wegrewuphere.
We’ll file this one under Gone-Too-Soon Watering Holes of The Fort Strip. Perched on the second floor with lots of tables, it was low-key compared to its neighbors, the kind where conversations can happen and dancing was optional. Music was predominantly Chillout Lounge or Vocal House, which set the mood for a sexy, hypnotic vibe. It was almost never too full that you’d have to elbow your way to the bar, and that was the draw for those who just wanted a chill kind of night.
Fiamma boldly opened on Jupiter in 2005, a time when practically nothing was there, just a bunch of aging offices and a couple of restaurants that were far apart. Parking was a prayer, especially on very crowded Saturday nights. The all-white double-decker space was minimally chic but very swanky, and sprawling for bar standards. It once carried a rep for attracting a beautiful crowd, a place where model sightings were normal, and was possibly one of its biggest come-ons.
If ska’s your thing, there was no better place to be. This Timog dive was a popular Thursday night destination, thanks in part to Session Road and their rise to fame. There was nothing fancy about the place, in fact the grit was all part of the charm. No dress codes, impossibly laid-back, just live music and a fun-loving crowd.
Racks El Pueblo
We don’t know how it happened (or ended), but sometime in the 2000s, Racks was more than just a restaurant. Weekends were a riot, what with live bands in tow and crowds that spilled over to the El Pueblo parking lot on a very good night. T-shirts, tank tops, and Havaianas were perfectly acceptable party-wear. Music was so loud that you had to talk in each other’s ear to carry a conversation but we didn’t mind. It was a comfy spot to let the good times roll.
Before BGC became the epicenter of nightlife, unfussy bars like Pier One held up the fort at, well, The Fort. Though primarily a restaurant, many came to drink. Not because the cocktails were mind-blowing or the least bit highbrow, but they provided a decent buzz without blowing much cash—a rarity in the area. It was where guzzlers came to start the night, or wind down post-party, because it offered exactly what they needed to just kick back with a beer or three.
There was a time when Greenbelt 3 was the “it” place and in that very happening strip of Makati, Temple was at the center of it all. The most striking mental image out of this hangout is that oversized buddha on top of the bar. You would find the DJ on the second floor, and that whole loft area provided the perfect vantage to people-watch. In its heyday, it was perennially packed, and the entire space was a dance floor. Pretty young things tumbled out of there as late as 4 a.m., danced-out and sweaty, possibly making a stop at the McDonalds nearby before calling it a night.