Originally conceived in 1998 by real estate entrepreneur Brad Gluckstein and co-owners Jimmy Smits, Jennifer López, Paul Rodríguez. and Sheila E., the Conga Room (on Wilshire Boulevard in the West Los Angeles Miracle Mile area) brought the eclectic sounds, hip ambiance, and sensual magic of Latin and world rhythms, and all the latest urban musical tendencies from within and out of L.A. For a decade, the Conga Room was this city's nightly cathedral for worshipers of live music and dancing, and it hosted major concerts by top Latin luminaries such as Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Buena Vista Social Club, and Oscar D'León, to mention but a few. It broadened its selection of acts beyond salsa by also spotlighting popular artists such as Los Lobos, Shakira, Carlos Santana, Billy Cobham, Nelly Furtado, Juanes, Aterciopelados, Julieta Venegas, Jack DeJohnette, Lila Downs, Hugh Masekela, Poncho Sánchez, Wyclef Jean, and José Feliciano. The Conga Room also hosted numerous record release parties, movie debuts and award shows, including the 2001 Latín Grammy Award Presentations, and Latin Beat Magazine's 10th anniversary celebration.
In the summer of 2006, the Conga Room closed its door to the public for "a short hiatus," in the words of owner Brad Gluckstein. For the past two years, Brad and his group of investors have been very busy planning and building the new Conga Room. On November 11, 2008, I met with Brad at the venue's new site located at "LA Live" in Downtown Los Angeles. LA Live also known as "Times Square West," Downtown LA's newest and hottest commodity, boasting four music venues, convention center hotel, restaurants, the largest content provider in the world and a 16-plex theater. This modern sports and entertainment mega-center houses the Staples Center (home of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers and LA Kings), ESPN (broadcast hub providing 50% of ESPN worldwide content), the Nokia Theater (a 7,500-seat theater for music and awards shows), Lucky Strike (an 18-1ane bowling alley), Nokia Club (a 2,500-seat theater for live concerts), Grammy Museum (30,000 sq.ft, museum), the Ritz Carlton/Marriot Convention Center Hotel, and the new Conga Room. The Nokia Plaza, a gigantic outdoor plaza surrounded by numerous giant video screens and mega-speakers that blast music around the clock, is the centerpiece of LA Live.
At the time of this writing, the Conga Room was scheduled to open its doors to the general public in...