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Nightclubbing In San Juan

By J.A. del Rosario

January 16, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

With the recent holidays falling quickly into the past, San Juan's nightlife is shifting back from from family get-togethers to the social scene in the city. For the first time in more than a month, Friday night is once again more about going out with friends that hanging out with Aunt Consuelo.

In honor of the city night life you could never talk about with Aunt Consuelo, here is a road map for your own Heart of Darkness odyssey up the river of the San Juan club scene.

A night of clubbing begins late, so take your time getting ready and leave your hotel room at around 10:30 P.M. A perfect route for night of danceful irreverence starts in Isla Verde at the El San Juan Hotel & Casino, at Club Babylon. This discotheque plays exactly what you would expect, electronic dance music, lots of hunks in open-collared shirts and plenty of women with mini-skirts, and open toed-high heels wrapped around perfectly pedicured feet. Yes, you guessed it, Babylon is where the beautiful people go on a Friday night.

Beware, there are cover charges, and the drinks are high-priced and meticulously measured -- but what can you expect inside the El San Juan Hotel? Even so, Babylon is the perfect place to kickstart your night. The music will get you out on the dance floor, and the location inside one of the city's most posh hotels makes everyone a little more open to meeting new people.

Once you have had a couple of drinks, and maybe struck a conversation with that fellow tourist you spotted earlier in the day by the pool, it is time to leave the nest and head out for more fun in the city.

Continue up the river up Isla Verde Ave., braking always for the pedestrian party revelers, and head out to El Teatro in Santurce. This former theater has a balcony area, a large stage and great DJs playing the latest beats from the New York club scene. The ambience here is certainly looser and more alternative than Babylon. But you already have a couple of drinks on you, so you are ready for the transition.

Cover charges vary, depending on who is producing the night party. But the prices never go past $10.

The only rule in this place is there are no rules. It is not a straight club, it is not a gay club, it is not an in between club. The dance floor in this place is equal opportunity and it heats up very quickly. So rev your engine, have a shot and hit the floor in a mad frenzy. The locals will appreciate your commitment to the dance floor.

Once you have worked up you heart beat to a healthy sprint, it is time to drive further up to the heart of the city. Continue driving down Ponce de León Avenue to the corner of R.H. Todd Avenue, take a right and keep your eyes open for what looks like the entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamon -- welcome to Stargate (that's right, a reference to the Egyptian-themed sci-fi movie).

Stargate is San Juan's center for perreo, the local answer to New Orleans booty dancing. Pay the cover charge by the Sphinx and walk right in. Now, the dance floor in El Teatro can heat up quickly; in Stargate, the floor is on fire and then it gets hotter. The crowd here comes strictly for their dose of perreo dancing and reggaeton, a local style of rap music.

Perreo, translated into doggystyle, is danced by humping the female's backside to the beat of the music. Honestly, most of the work here falls on the female partner, who must gyrate her hips to the beat of the music like, well, like an animal in heat. It helps to take a break from the balcony with a couple of drinks and watch the regulars bust a move, before heading out on the dance floor.

If you are not in intimate terms with your dance partner, be forewarned that perreo dancing under those circumstances can either be the most awckward experience of your life, or the greatest ice breaker you will ever come across. Just remember to keep all your body part inside your clothes. Good luck!

Understandably, after an hour dancing perreo your immediate thought will be to scratch the rest of the night and head straight back to your hotel room. But be strong, true rewards come to those who wait.

Continue up the river to Old San Juan, and into a second-floor lounge on Recinto Sur Street called Oleo. Friday nights is 80's music night. The crowd here is interesting, especially if you consider listening to David Bowie's China Girl alongside a guy in leather pants who looks like Ziggy Stardust an interesting experience.

Oleo is arguably one of the best lounges in the city. It is designed for people looking to replenish their energy after a night of Dyonisian splendor.

Take some of that energy that built up during the perreo and put it to good use here where the lights are dimmed, and the sofas are suitable for long kisses.

Enjoy your drink, for one Friday night you conquered the city.

Now you can get back to your hotel.

Good night!

Club Babylon
El San Juan Hotel & Casino, Isla Verde

El Teatro
1420 Ponce de León, Santurce

1 R. H. Todd Street, Condado

305 Recinto Sur Street, Old San Juan

J.A. del Rosario, a business reporter for The San Juan Star, is a remedial guitar player and an incorrigible nightcrawler. He can be contacted at: :

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