Blue-Collar Nights

To the sound of a Latin beat, the city's working stiffs escape the daily grind at Escapade, two of the biggest nightclubs you've never heard of -- not if English is your first language

The majority of the clubs' clientele are Mexican immigrants, though some are recent arrivals from Central and South America as well as second and subsequent-generation U.S. Latinos. Together, these groups account for about 36 percent of Dallas' population, an estimate that includes newcomers as well as several generations of the U.S.-born, according to the 2000 census.

Escapade 2001, which resembles a gigantic country & western club, features ranchera and cumbia music and attracts recent Mexican immigrants along with a smaller number of Mexican-Americans. Club 2009, which features techno and rock en espanol, among other types of dance music, attracts a more diverse group of Latinos, a mix of first- and second-generation Mexican immigrants as well as some Guatemalans, Salvadorans and a smattering of immigrants from other Latin American countries.

While few Anglos have ever peered inside the spectacularly busy clubs, they top the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission numbers for alcohol sales at local clubs. Of the approximately 1,000 establishments licensed to sell alcohol in the city of Dallas last April, the most recent month for which liquor sales records are available, 2001 and 2009--though open only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights--together racked up about $66,070 in booze sales, more than any other Dallas club. Generating $41,620, Escapade 2001 alone ranked in Dallas' top 10 for liquor sales revenue. Among the elite group of businesses to top 2001's liquor sales was Gaston Avenue's Far West (formerly Cowboys), one of a growing number of warehouse-sized nightclubs catering to the swelling local Latino immigrant population. You may never have heard of the clubs, but Escapade 2001 and 2009 have no problem getting their message to Latino Dallas through tens of thousands of dollars in advertisements on local Spanish-language radio and television, says Escapade manager Dario Ferdows.

You won't find many cowboy boots at Escapade 2009--Dos Mil Nueve--where the upstairs room caters to salsa dancers.
Mark Graham
You won't find many cowboy boots at Escapade 2009--Dos Mil Nueve--where the upstairs room caters to salsa dancers.
Escapade 2001 can hold more than 2,000 patrons, who crowd the enormous dance floor.
Mark Graham
Escapade 2001 can hold more than 2,000 patrons, who crowd the enormous dance floor.

Escapade 2009 opened in 1998. Before that, the cavernous space hosted a popular country & western club called Country 2000. As the country-music dance scene trendy in the early and mid-'90s began to fade, Country 2000 slowly lost its draw. So with the booming economy and a steady stream of Latino immigrants coming to Dallas to fuel the minimum-wage labor market, Country 2000 metamorphosed into Club 2009 and, by catering to Spanish speakers, helped fill a local dance-club void. The new club was so successful that another club of similar size, Escapade 2001, opened right next door in 1999.

City records list Schahrouz Ferdows as the custodian of both Escapade 2001 and 2009's liquor licenses. Schahrouz didn't return phone calls to the clubs' office. The clubs' attorney, Jim W. Lee, identified Ferdows as president of the two corporations listed as owning the clubs. "It's a private business, and we just don't talk about it. It's nothing sinister," Lee says, declining to name the clubs' owner. A club employee, however, refers to Ferdows, who goes by Schane, as the owner of both venues, as well as the owner of Arlington Latino club Escapades 2001 and a Latino club in Houston.

Dario, Schane Ferdows' son, says the Dallas 2001 and 2009 have about 20 investors. They're considering opening another Latino club in Phoenix, Dario says. "We give them the nicest place to go," he says. "Some other places they [immigrants] go to used to be an old Wal-Mart that someone's decked out and put lights in...We dump a lot of money back into the clubs. That's how we're trying to differentiate ourselves."

It's half past midnight on a recent Saturday, but just off the Northwest Highway-Stemmons Freeway intersection it looks like rush hour on a workday. Cars and trucks of all colors and sizes creep north along the freeway access road into a lit parking lot big enough to accommodate a shopping mall. A tall electronic billboard bathes the vehicles turning in to the lot in yellow commercial messages. A couple of men in orange vests at the two entrances direct traffic with flashlights. White Dodge pickups occupied by black-uniformed off-duty police officers man posts throughout the lot, their yellow lights spinning and flashing for no apparent reason other than to emphasize their presence.

Sergeant Lawrence Smith of the Dallas Police Department's Northwest substation says law enforcement problems at both clubs generally don't go beyond cars getting broken into and people getting into fistfights. "Somebody gets mad at somebody for dancing with somebody, or someone gets mad at somebody for pushing someone," he says.

Most clashes occur at or outside 2001, largely between recent immigrants and English-speaking Latinos, often Mexican-Americans, Ferdows says. "They hold themselves above the working-class Hispanic," he says.

Packs of teen-agers and twentysomethings pile out of their vehicles onto the concrete. Some hover in the half-open doors of pickup trucks to risk a few last swigs out of a beer can or a plastic soft-drink bottle filled with a mysterious alcoholic concoction only underage drinkers would consider ingesting. Most head directly toward their choice of the side-by-side 40,000-square-foot buildings with bland, beige exteriors. Some hold hands in couples; others prowl, swaggering and strutting, in musky-cologned and sweet-perfumed clusters. A pair of security guards in a white SUV topped with twirling security lights attempts to herd stragglers like cattle toward the clubs, yelling at everyone to keep moving. A low-flying, Love Field-bound jet rumbles overhead.

Everyone waits a minute in lines outside the tall double doors in the humid air. Bouncers holding security wands make sure nobody has a gun or any other objectionable item tucked away. A burlier pair of bouncers evaluates a group of young guys singled out of a line for showing up in below-standard dress. All have baggy pants, and a couple had the nerve to don tennis shoes. They're turned away.

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