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An L.A. Latino's Latin Club

PaPaz, with varied music and simple decor, is a refreshing nightspot.

March 02, 2000|ALISA VALDES-RODRIGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PaPaz Night Club is a sophisticated, postmodern Latin nightspot featuring all the class of some of the trendier spots in town, but with none of the creepy 1950s-Caribbean-sugar-plantation feel. You know, that elderly-black-dude-in-the-bath-room-handing-out-towels, cha-cha-girls-in-miniskirts-serving-mojitos-and-cigars, fake-out gringisimo vibe.

(Yeah, you all know the nightclub I'm talking about.)

No, damas y caballeros, PaPaz has none of that. Thank God. It's a Los Angeles Latino's Latin club, slick and smart, featuring rock en espanol some nights and salsa, merengue and cumbia on others. And it is also, thankfully, utterly without the crashing cymbals, accordions, pointy snakeskin boots and giant belt buckles associated with, say, a banda joint in Van Nuys.

Located smack in the middle of Hollywood, PaPaz is small, with capacity for 300. The decor is spare and modern, with simple black tables and chairs, two long bars, and hanging lamps with green shades.

The petite dance floor is wooden and sort of triangular, abutted by a large DJ booth. A cramped carpeted space to one side of the booth serves as a makeshift stage for the live local acts appearing at least once a week.

On the busiest night, Saturday, when the serious salsa dancers come out in force, the Sharky's Mexican Grill adjacent to PaPaz is used as an extension of the club--a convenience that comes from Edwin Papazian owning both. Rock is played in the extension, and the combination creates an interesting mix.

The law is strictly upheld here with regard to age (patrons must be 21) and decibel level (it never gets deafeningly loud). Valet parking is available, and everything feels squeaky clean--even the stone-faced bouncer radiates cologne vapors like some desert highway. Manager Hector Quezada says the club draws anywhere from 80 people on Wednesdays to a full house of 300 on Saturdays.

Dancing to Moody Alterlatino Music

Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays feature rock en espanol. Disc jockeys vary on the weekdays, but Sundays are always spun by Fernando G, who's got a thing for hard-hitting alternative music in Spanish. If you think rock en espanol is limited to bad imitations of the Police and the Cure, DJ Fernando will make you think again. It's pretty funny to watch people dance to moody alterlatino music, too. I mean, who knows how to dance to rock anymore anyway? Please. Local rock bands play about biweekly--Leyenada is slated for March 15--and you can call to find out which ones are coming up.

Thursdays and Saturdays, meanwhile, are devoted to "salsa, merengue, cumbia and disco," according to the management. That's a wild combination, holmes, one that probably wouldn't work well anywhere but Los Angeles. But here, it's fabulous. Thursdays are home to Super DJ Robby, and Saturdays always feature a guest DJ. Starting this month, DJ Mariano, who spins a mean rumba, is going to be back on both nights making guest appearances.

As with the rock nights, the salsa/merengue/cumbia/disco nights have live acts, about one a week. Last week it was Yambu, a tight local salsa act. Quezada says PaPaz favors local acts that are pretty strong but often overlooked by the trendier clubs.

BE THERE

PaPaz Night Club, 1716 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 461-8190. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays: $7 cover; free before 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays: $10 cover; free before 10 p.m.

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