The location formerly known as Juanita’s in the River Market has been leased by Sarah-Catherine and Jorge Gutierrez, a Little Rock couple who have been at the center of a growing salsa scene in Little Rock.
Over the years, Sarah-Catherine said, Little Rock Salsa’s Friday night classes have moved around town: Vieux Carre, then Union Bistro, then Browning’s and, for three years before the venue closed, at Juanita’s in the River Market. Having partnered with the tenant to hold salsa nights in the upstairs concert venue on Fridays, the Gutierrezes are now the tenants themselves, leasing the space directly from the building’s owners and, as Sarah Catherine put it, coming “back home. There’s nothing wrong with the [Clear Channel] Metroplex,” where the salsa nights are held currently, but Gutierrez says the dancers “loved being in the River Market. People would just come in from the street to see what salsa night was all about.” She described the space as “perfect for dancing,” and states that her and Jorge have hopes of creating “a modern-era ballroom” where dance is the focus, “a creative space where there also happens to be a bar.”
“We have professional dancers who teach the class from 9-10 p.m., then we put all the couples in a big circle. Most people come without a dance partner, and after a dance, we rotate, so that by the end of the night, everyone’s dancing with everyone.”
The couple is in the process of obtaining a zoning change and a license to serve alcohol, which they hope will happen in time for a December opening. Although Gutierrez plans to start off opening one night a week for salsa nights, she notes aspirations to “foster the dance events going on around town,” with a potential expansion of the group’s tango nights.
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