Up and Down Bar
Perhaps no other place exemplifies the growing role of tourism in expanding and diversifying Cuba’s private businesses market or the increasing stratification of Cuban society more than Up & Down, open daily until 3 a.m. in the heart of Havana’s Vedado neighbourhood. Downstairs, the place features a small but lively dance floor with DJs often spinning remixes of international popular songs late into the night. The upstairs lounge, however, is where things really begin to deviate from the norm a bit.
Why “Up & Down”?
Entrance into the upstairs section of Up & Down is reserved for a number of well-loved repeat customers or those willing to commit to a $20 CUC per person spending minimum. This might not seem like much for those used to London prices, but in Cuba it’s an amount virtually unheard of roughly equal to the average monthly salary of many government employees!
However, it’s not only tourists that frequent this exclusive spot. In fact, the upstairs at Up & Down seems to be a particularly popular hangout for the emerging Cuban entrepreneur class, with many Cuban business owners in their 30s and 40s gathering here to relax after a hard day’s work. So if you’re looking to brush shoulders with the young upper crust of Cuban society, this is your shot!
Downstairs, the crowd is generally younger and much more energetic. Especially on weekends, expect the dance floor to be packed from early in the evening all the way until closing time in the early morning with a mix of tourists and locals enjoying an international music selection similar to what you might hear playing in any major Latin American metropolis.
The Food and Drink
Up & Down is renowned for hiring some of the absolute best bartenders in all of Havana, and as such the cocktails tend to be the biggest draw for the club’s clients. Even when the place is packed, these experts never seem flustered and somehow manage to have even the most complex mixed drinks delivered to you in record time. Of course, if you want to avoid the wait completely, perhaps that pricy upstairs section is calling your name?
Though not necessarily a destination for its food alone, the dishes at Up & Down are also surprisingly good and more than tasty enough to satisfy any late-night cravings! The kitchen produces mostly tapas and small plates with an emphasis on Spanish cuisine. The curried chicken seems to be an especially popular option; the chef, Silvio Fernández, claims it to be one of the best in Cuba.
Whether you’re looking to dance the night away or simply relax in one of Cuba’s most exclusive lounge environments, Up & Down doubtlessly has what you’re looking for. In a lot of ways it might feel like a little taste of home for many foreign holidaymakers, and perhaps a sign of the new Cuba to come.
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