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As Latin clubs grow, music and audience diversifies

Latin Nights at The Mayan Club

Tovin Lapan

Visitors at the Mayan Club enjoy a variety of Latin music.

Latin Nights at the Mayan Club

Visitors at the Mayan Club enjoy a variety of Latin music. Launch slideshow »

Latin Clubs

Dancers fill the dance floor during Latin night at Blue Martini in Town Square Thursday, April 28, 2011. Launch slideshow »

LATIN DANCE VENUES

The Mayan Club

2797 S. Maryland Pkwy., Ste. 8, 892-9222

Thursday: Open Mic Night, 8 p.m; Reggae and Hip-Hop after 11 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: Latin dance nights, 11 p.m.

Sunday: Hip-Hop and R&B, 11 p.m.

Blue Martini

6593 Las Vegas Blvd. (Inside Town Square), 949-2583

Thursday; Noche Azul with DJ Gil Barba and DJ Virus, 10 p.m.

VIDA!

At Diego Mexican Cuisine, at MGM Grand

3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South, 891-7777

Friday and Saturday: Latin late night with DJ Gil Barba and DJ Virus, 11:30 p.m.

Gold Coast

4000 West Flamingo Road, 367-7111

Saturdays: Noches Calientes, various live music acts, 10:30 p.m.

Havana Grill

8878 S. Eastern Ave., Ste. 100, 932-9310

Saturday: Salsa night under the stars, 8 to 10 p.m.

Gonzalez y Gonzalez at New York New York

3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 740-6969

Fridays and Saturdays: Latin Nights with DJ RamZ spinning Latin hits, pop, house and more, 11 p.m.

It is getting close to 1 a.m. Sunday and Mayan Club manager Spencer Quintanilla is surveying the newly renovated dance floor.

A hip-hop song with a distinctively Latin beat is booming through the speakers as a diverse crowd in both age and ethnicity works up a thirst, gyrating, spinning and swaying under the array of LED and laser lights.

“People start showing up around midnight,” he said, eyeing the already-bustling night spot. “But it will really get going around 3 a.m.”

In January the Mayan Club, in recognition of its changing demographics and booming business, expanded its dance floor by approximately 50 feet and added a new light system. Club management upped the number of VIP areas from eight to 12, and expanded the staff to improve service.

“In the last year and a half we’ve gone from maybe 1 percent of our customers being tourists to 45 percent,” Quintanilla said. “We don’t exactly compete with the clubs on the Strip, but we wanted to do more for our customers and offer that club experience.”

“It used to be if you wanted to hear Latin music and popular dance music, you had to go to two different clubs,” said Michael Hernandez, 23, who came to the Mayan Club with a group of friends Saturday night. “Now, you can hear all the music in one place, and the crowds have really mixed at the same time. You got the older people who know all the salsa and merengue, and you got the young ones like me who know that stuff but want to hear Latin hip-hop and English stuff, too.”

The change isn’t limited to the Mayan Club.

DJ Gil Barba, who along with DJ Virus provides the soundtrack for both Blue Martini’s Thursday “Noche Azul” Latin Night and the Latin late night events on Fridays and Saturdays at MGM Grand’s Diego Mexican Cuisine, said he has seen both the music and crowds diversify through the years.

“I wouldn’t even call it ‘Latin Night’ anymore,” he said. “It’s more like ‘Universal Night.’”

Barba says he has seen Latin nights grow in popularity and prominence the past five years.

“Latin night has really blown up,” he said. “What’s happened is people saw the opportunity to take a piece of a growing market. Before, it was always at odd times, like Sundays and Thursdays. Now, you can find Latin clubs and Latin dance nights every day of the week. There used to be just a few places, but now people definitely have different places they can check out.”

Barba said as more Latin artists manage to crossover into the U.S. market, Shakira and Pitbull among them, the Latin-themed clubs have drawn a more diverse crowd.

“Before people would think ,‘Oh if we go to a Latin night, it will be salsa and merengue all night,” said Barba, 35. “However, now that Latin music has been established, there’s been a change the last few years. ... The crowd has changed. The last generation was all about salsa and merengue, but the new generation is used to Pitbull, J. Lo and other crossover artists.”

Quintanilla said the Mayan Club, which is open Thursday through Sunday, has stepped up its promotions, added a website and targeted visitors more in the past two years.

The music there Saturday night seamlessly shifted from popular hip-hop artists like Rihanna, 50 Cent and Dr. Dre to a hot new single from Shakira and Pitbull titled “Rabiosa” and then into a remix of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” laid over a cumbia rhythm. There were also salsas, merengues, bachatas and even some examples of the latest Latin music craze, tribal, in the form of 3Ball MTY’s “Intentalo.” Some couples showed off expert salsa moves, while on other parts of the dance floor groups of 20-somethings threw their hands up and leaped into the air.

“We are definitely getting much bigger crowds, and much more diverse crowds,” Quintanilla said. “We get a lot more tourists now, and the website has helped us out a lot with that. It’s not just Latinos, it’s a variety. Our clients where asking for more of that club atmosphere, VIP service, etc., and we definitely want to give our clients what they ask for. Now, we are seeing repeat customers from the tourists who come regularly.”

The Mayan Club can also offer more accessibility than some of the premiere clubs on the Strip, Quintanilla said.

“When tourists come in, we really try and take care of them. Maybe we accommodate them with a booth if they have a big group of 15 people, and it’s up to them to buy a bottle. We can do more than the Strip, where they might make you wait in line for an hour and charge you and arm and a leg to get in. We try to take care of them as much as we can because they may come back to Vegas and next time ask us to host their bachelor party.”

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