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Caravan East Nightclub Closes

Caravan East Nightclub Closes

55-year-old country and western club shut its doors for the final time last weekend

Space to Become Public Library

They say that all good things must come to an end, but what a ride it’s been for one of Albuquerque’s longest running, and, arguably, one of its most popular nightclubs, the Caravan East.

On Sunday morning, Dec. 4, the 55-year-old nightclub at 7605 Central Ave. NE closed its doors for good following a 55-year run. Hundreds of paying customers plunked down $7 each to say goodbye to what many said came to be a home a way from home.

The city is buying the 10,000-square-foot building and its adjoining property and will turn it into a library.

The club, traditionally known as a country western music venue for decades, offered three bars, a huge dance floor, pool tables and a smoking patio. But in recent years, it increased its offerings of Spanish music to a larger audience.

The Caravan East was a place to go to see local and national performers, including Al Hurricane and Charlie Pride.

The reactions to the closing were what one would expect for a 55-year-old venue that attracted a fiercely loyal and typically older customer base.

“Devastated, devastated,” said a 74-year old woman. “I’ve only been dancing here for 10 years, so we’re here twice a week. And this is such a huge part of what being in New Mexico means to me. When I first moved here, I wouldn’t move without a dance place. I met all my friends here. It’s just been a wonderful ride. We don’t know what we’re going to do.

“Tuesday is Ladies Night, and it’s mostly country, but I come Saturday because I love dancing to the cumbias and the rancheras. There’s no place else that plays that. Most of the places don’t play the Spanish music. This is what keeps me young. This is what keeps me healthy. I went through cancer last year, and so I had to give up dancing for about six months, and I couldn’t wait to get back.”

Sixty-seven-year-old James Montoya had been coming to the club for 10 years for a number of reasons. “A lot of friendly faces, a lot of people to dance with. A lot of good times. A lot of memories. A lot of laughs,” Montoya said. “You can shrug all your problems off right here.”

Huge closing night crowd

Only halfway into its last Saturday evening, 582 people had arrived at the Caravan, including 65-year old Allen Brooks, who was dressed in a full-blown Santa suit.

“Since they’re closing down, I wanted to be here because I really felt that it would help a lot with the going away,” Brooks said. “I love this place. I’ve been coming here for 22 years. A lot of other people here have all been coming here a lot longer than me. And the people [who work] here are just incredible. They go out of their way to help you out.”

Victor Gonzales, the Club DJ and sound system operator , says he was “very sad” the club was closing. “I don’t think it should happen,” Gonzales said. “I think it should continue on. I think new owners should have come in and maybe done some changes or whatever needs to be done, but there’s a lot of people that are going to miss all the environment. They love this place. They love the New Mexico music. It’s not just dancing; it’s a family is what it is.”

Stella Rudolph, a regular Caravan patron from Las Vegas, N.M., said she felt bad that the club was closing. “After 55 years, that’s a long time,” Rudolph said. “All the Spanish music is just beautiful; I love it. Every Saturday night, I’m going to miss it very, very much. Every Saturday night [I was here] for 14 years.”

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  • Philip J Alaniz
    April 13, 2017, 9:19 pm

    There were a lot of memories for me as well. I got stationed in Kirtland AFB in 1971, I met my first wife there. Made many good friends. Left Albq to Nevada 10 years later. Too bad many will miss it. They should build another one.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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