Last dance at Club Tropicana

Saturday, December 15, 2007 | 5:31 p.m. CST; updated 2:24 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Bin Wu salsa dances with Susan Cass on the dance floor at Club Tropicana on Friday. Both are ballroom dancers who wanted to experience Club Tropicana before it closes on Saturday.

COLUMBIA — Marti Waigandt spent her childhood in downtown Columbia.

She remembers when, as a girl, she would meet her father downtown on his mail delivery route to eat lunch and chat with the local merchants, and how lively and fun downtown always was in those days.


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That’s why when she and her husband, Alexander, were given the opportunity to buy property at 808 Cherry St., they jumped at the chance.

“The District is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, and it’s great to get a chance to be a part of that,” Marti Waigandt said.

For the Waigandts, buying the building is the realization of a longtime dream.

But for Joy Castillo and her employees at Club Tropicana, it means it’s time to move on.

Because the Waigandts plan to build luxury apartments on the second floor, they realized they would need a downstairs tenant that’s a little quieter than a Latin dance club and bar.

And so, on Saturday, Club Tropicana at 808 Cherry St. opened for the last time, throwing one final party for loyal Latin dance and hip hop followers.

“This is not your typical nightclub, your typical bar. It’s not just getting drunk for cheap,” Castillo said. “We’re about the dancing, about the music, about diversity.”

Castillo said she is not at all upset with the Waigandts for buying the building, although she is sad to close down a business she had called her second home for almost two years.

“Moving is not fun, but I have no resentment towards him at all,” she said. “He (Alexander Waigandt) has been very helpful, very forthright and up front about his plans, and they didn’t ultimately include us. It’s not because he doesn’t like us or is against what we’re doing, but the move was inevitable.”

Castillo said the Waigandts gave her more time to move, but with college students home for break and everyone preoccupied with getting ready for the holidays, she decided now would be a good time to close down and start looking for a new location.

“We’re looking for a temporary spot for now to keep the salsa going,” Castillo said, looking around at the dancers on the floor. “We don’t want to just not do it anymore.”

Carlos Lozano, who helped renovate the club — originally called the Spanish Fly — said he and many others are sad to have to leave the location. “I made this. This bar is my baby. I wanted people to see something different, because this place is pretty unique,” he said. “But I’ll go make a better baby next time.”

Chris Stixrud, a regular at Club Tropicana, said she’s upset the club is closing. “I spend so much of my recreational time here. The owners and workers feel like family,” she said. “There’s always places to meet new people, always places to drink, to dance, but not all together in such a friendly atmosphere.”

Castillo said she hopes her regular customers will not let Club Tropicana close down forever just because it had to change locations.

“I’m in a situation where I really need to believe we are going to find a new spot. We are going to reincarnate,” she said. “I hope people who haven’t tried us out yet will come find us in our new location.”

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Moondog Goodman December 16, 2007 | 5:21 a.m.

Joy and the group at Club Tropicana were very classy in the way they made no statement of ill will toward the Waigandts. That is their nature.

However, to me Marty Waigandt's childhood memories downtown are sullied by her and her husband's total lack of regard for whom they are effecting by their heavy-handed real estate interests.

Interestingly, Spanish Fly/Tropicana is probably the only business at that location in the last ten years to have a shot at surviving, had they not had their location yanked out from under them.

That is a tribute to Tropicana business-owner Joy and her husband, and Joy's experience as a downtown business owner and her reputation as a great person.
With the kind of commitment, business sense, and reputation for good will that the Tropicana owners have, they will succeed is just too bad that we all will have to wait around until they get can get a new place and get settled.

I would have been much happier to hear that the Waigandts had more to say to help Joy and her time and money spent at Tropicana, than a somewhat polite 'we're forcing you out. good luck.' [or whatever they said].

Ah well, I guess we can always use another McDonald's downtown...or other multinational franchise that can afford small-business-crushing real estate mogul rent. I vote for a White Castle or Krispy Kreme...

To Mr. and Mrs. Waigandt: congratulations on your investment and future development. Good luck to you! However, they say karma is a patient and powerful thing, and I'm afraid you are starting on the bad side of things with your treatment of Tropicana. I think you owe it to the Tropicana owners to do what you can to help them successfully move to a new location without losing the sweat equity and other investment they have put into the location. It is not right or fair for Joy to have to take a significant loss on that. Some things are more important than just business and investment.
People remember and respect when you don't crush people smaller than you, and good or bad karma has a way of returning.

Anybody interested in giving a home to an already established and growing latin-dance club following? Hundreds of exiled salsa dancers are now forced to wander the streets of Columbia…in search of a new home. The mojito glasses are dry. The salsa drums have fallen silent.

That's my two cents...

...nos vemos Club Tropicana...

(Report Comment)
Michael Sleadd December 16, 2007 | 10:19 p.m.

Have they considered the "Shattered" space? They closed last night. Perhaps the club isn't available.

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