Latino bars where drinking and dancing go hand in hand, and everyone is welcome

Lupitas Night Club is packed with people dancing to the mariahi band Diamante Norteno.

Lupitas Night Club is packed with people dancing to the mariahi band Diamante Norteno.

Photo By Amy beck

Well, they asked me to write a guide about Latin clubs

… Latinos… Rumba, salsa, and cha-cha-cha? Tropical weather, tacos, voodoo, people dancing in the streets, giant sombreros, and tequila? Well, yes and no, sometimes, and it depends.

Let’s think about the Latin world within the United States as if it were a giant pizza made for the likes of a very demanding consumer. There are 48 million pieces of three principal types of ingredients: Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Mexicans. The other 20 slices of pizza taste different. One tastes like Chile, another like Argentina, the next one like Peru, Colombia, and there’s even one that tastes like Easter Island.

In Cuba, it doesn’t snow; in Chile, they don’t eat spicy food; in Brazil, they speak Portuguese; and Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. So let’s think about Latin America like a type of Europe where they speak fewer languages and the countries are a hell of a lot bigger.

In Nevada, the majority of the Latino pie is Mexican. The three clubs I’ve chosen respond to this culture as much in the music as in the setting. Also, they serve in both English and Spanish and are open to anyone and everyone who wants to dance and have a good time.

I’m a graduate student. I teach Spanish, and the majority of my parties are with Cervantes and Christopher Columbus, which is why I went to the primary source—University of Nevada, Reno students—when I began planning which bars to visit. I started and finished my search in a Chicano studies class at UNR led by Dr. Daniel Enrique Perez. While the students yelled out names, I wrote down as many as I could and planned my attack.

Night one: snow, ice … no one in the streets or in the clubs I wanted to check out. Nevertheless, I noted a key point: Latinos don’t go out until finishing dinner with their families or getting together with their friends. The party starts later.

Coco Boom
701 S. Virginia St., 324-9775

The second night, there was still snow, but it was Saturday, and Saturdays are sacred—for partying. Sitting on the classic corner of Virginia Street and Saint Lawrence Avenue, Coco Boom from the outside has black windows and a sober aesthetic, even though the name suggests that upon entering we might find a tropical dance club, with lights and rumba. Nevertheless, and not necessarily for worse, it’s a typical urban club, where DJs scratch on Saturday nights, and live bands play on Fridays to satisfy their steady clientele. In its eight years of existence, thousands of souls have demonstrated their dance skills on one of the two dance floors and then cured their thirst at the expansive bar. The modus operandi is this: Make all the drinks they can think up, and serve up the best-sellers. Tequila? They have a lot, and many different types sold especially from Mexico to heat up the body.

Nevertheless, Coco Boom will have to come up with something new because now, two strong competitors have appeared in the field.

Diamante Norteno keeps the party moving at Lupitas Night Club.

Photo By Amy beck

Lupitas Night Club
1955 Oddie Blvd., 358-9646

Heading down Oddie, we stopped at a shed surrounded by trailers and cars. At the door, two guards smiled nicely. After paying the cover, the first thing we saw was a great dance floor and cowboy hats, accompanied by impeccable shirts, jeans, cowboy boots, and lots of cowboy hats and mustaches. The women wore tight pants, sexy tops, and some wear cowboy hats, as well.

The new owners, Lupe Medina and his wife, Maria, like the good hosts they are, didn’t miss a detail while working the bar, the door, or wherever they were needed. Medina explained that the new concept of the club is to have the soul of a hacienda. He works in a Mexican rodeo business, which is why they’re even bringing a mechanical bull directly from Guadalajara.

While we continued our conversation, the younger crowd started coming in. Some of them wore baseball caps, earrings, and perfectly trimmed beards. On the dance floor, a group of women danced to the rhythm of techno-banda, regional Mexican music with electronica patterns.

Later, there were tables and dancing. You drank and you danced, in that proportion, while the band boosted the people’s energy by clapping and shouting. Ramon, the bartender, served with a smile on his lips and perfect English. He described his favorite drink for hangovers: The Enchilada, which is similar to a Michelada, except it has tomato juice and Tapatío sauce. His star drink, soon to premiere, will be The Volcano, which will have six different types of shots and fruit juices, all served in a bowl with dry ice. It’s a mix that will surely move even the stiffest bodies to the rhythm of the quebradita, the corrido, the cumbia, and reggaeton.

Lupitas will reinaugurate its hacienda dance club on March 18-19. There will be live music, a lot of Volcanos to drink, and plenty of friendly Mexican cowboys and cowgirls to dance with.

La Fonda de Don Juan
4385 Neil Road, 284-2950

Walking up to the club, we see the outside, which does no justice to its interior. It’s an ample space, well designed, and full of indigenous art that elevates the classiness of both the restaurant, which functions during the day, and the dance club, which starts attracting people after 11 p.m.

The dance floor has the shape of a hexagon, and is lined with booths decorated with miniature palms and separated by panels for more intimacy. Groups usually share the club’s star drink: an enormous margarita, served in a glass large enough so that as many people who want to drink from it can while resting between dancing and more dancing.

After trying this delicious drink, like the good reporter I am, the dancing started for me. Salsa, merengue, cumbia, reggaeton, and a little bit of pop in English. And the tequila, which had already risen to my head, propelled me to the bar to ask for a glass of water.

Back at the bar, decorated with original piñatas shaped like bottles of tequila, a group of girls toasted with shots. I went back to the booths again because there aren’t many Latinos who don’t go out in groups—the more the better! Owner Juan Mireles, dressed in a flawless suit and smiling, approached to make sure everything was in order. He welcomed the guests and continued to the door, not leaving anything unchecked. There, between folks I knew from UNR and a pair of dancing guys, I ended up taking another tequila shot and dancing in an environment that lit up more each time.

These are the moments when I feel like I’m at home in this group of people who like to have a good time just as much in Spanish as they do in English.