As far as Marisa Maldonado is concerned, the hot dance spots over the hill in Los Angeles could learn a thing or two from the nightclubs in the San Fernando Valley.
Although Maldonado occasionally visits trendy downtown clubs like the Mayan, her favorite dance spots are Giggles nightclub in Glendale and Gitana's in Burbank.
"There's nice clean-cut people who come here," Maldonado said on a recent Friday night visit to Giggles. The 22-year-old Sylmar resident complains that the downtown clubs are typically situated in high-crime areas and that she's uncomfortable because of the skimpy attire some of the other women wear.
"They dress like prostitutes," she said.
The San Fernando Valley certainly isn't packed with nightclubs, but patrons say they are happy alternatives exist to life in the Hollywood area, downtown and the Westside.
For Maldonado, Giggles, on Brand Boulevard, is the perfect fit.
"It's in a nice, safe area. It's close to my house and they have a variety of music," Maldonado said.
Giggles specializes in Latin/salsa, Spanish rock, hip-hop and house-disco. It's a large club, with dancing on two floors. The club features three long bars, five pool tables downstairs, an intricate lighting design and video screens in several locations. Several patrons mentioned they like the club because it is spacious and always clean.
Giggles has been open for eight years under the ownership of brothers Garnik and Edmond Galoostian.
Garnik Galoostian said he's not really competing with the clubs in Los Angeles, he's just carving a niche in an underserved area. Unlike the Los Angeles clubs, which change names and venues on a regular basis, a club like Giggles thrives on consistency, Galoostian said.
"We don't change the concept. The customers know what they want in terms of price and music," Galoostian said.
The club also attempts to present a more high-end image. You won't find any grunge-rockers at Giggles, where the dress code requires dress pants, dress shoes and collared shirts.
"People who come here are going out for the night at Giggles. They're not coming off the street," Galoostian said.
Giggles charges a $10 cover on Friday nights and $12 on Saturdays--about the going rate for most clubs in the Los Angeles area.
Jacqui De Leon and her family run two dance clubs in the Valley, Gitana's, near the Media City Center in Burbank, and Yankee Doodles, a sports bar/dance club in Woodland Hills.
Gitana's, which also includes a restaurant and sports bar, opened in 1999. De Leon said most patrons are between 21 and 40. On Thursdays, the club has a Latin/salsa night. On Fridays it switches to hip-hop, and Saturday is disco night. Both Gitana's and Yankee Doodles draw strong business, according to De Leon. "We are always packed," she said.
The Rumba Room, located above Gladstone's at Universal CityWalk, opened in June. The club, which plays mostly salsa, Latin, cha-cha and rumba music, draws between 600 and 1,000 dancers on Friday and Saturday nights, said manager Richard Rodriguez.
"It seems to be happening. We're quite busy," Rodriguez said.
The club advertises heavily on local radio stations. Rodriguez said he doubts the club gets many people from CityWalk. The club has a dress code and is more of a destination business rather than a place where people would go on the spur of the moment.
The dance clubs also rake in revenue from private parties, which are typically held on Sundays or during the week to avoid conflicting with the Friday-Saturday night business.
Rodriguez said the Rumba Room hosted several Christmas parties for local companies. It also booked parties during the Democratic National Convention in August.
Scotland Yard Pub on Sherman Way in Canoga Park is a Scottish pub most of the time. But on Tuesday night DJ Michael Breul transforms the space, which has a capacity of just 100, into a dance club. It's billed as an underground night of sorts, and Breul plays trance and house music. The Tuesday-night event draws mostly a Valley crowd.
"Since it's Tuesday, they'd rather go out here," Breul said.
Galoostian, owner of Giggles, plans to open another nightclub soon in the downtown Los Angeles area. He said it's tough to open a new nightclub in the Valley for a variety of reasons.
"To have a nightclub you need at least 12,000 square feet, no columns in the room, a high ceiling and 600 parking spaces," Galoostian said. "That's not easy to find."
In addition, it helps if the nightclub has no neighbors. Although Giggles is surrounded by stores, none of them is open when the nightclub gets busy in the late evening.
Occasionally Giggles will see a dip in business if a new nightclub opens over the hill, but manager Leslyn Ray said those clubs come and go pretty quickly.
"We have regulars. We don't ever really panic about it," Ray said. "They always come back."