During day and even for most of the weeknights, Secaucus' office and mall district is a hub of professional activity - cars and buses buzzing by, officer workers rushing in and out, shoppers invading nearby malls. But on Friday night, this world gets it touch of Latin, as strands of Latin freestyle music and other brands of the musical genre leak out the glass doors and flow into the street, shading this world of commerce with musical hues from south of the border.
Along with merengue's galloping tempos, you might catch recorded tunes from Latin bands with names such as Sin Fronteras, Shakira, Charlie Cruz, Jose Manuel, Karina, Cuba Son or Jimmy El Leon.
If you are remotely familiar with the Latin beat, you might even recognize Merengueros like Sergio Vargas, Elvis Crespo and Millie Quezada or the more brassy sound of salsa singers like Frankie Negron, Tito Nieves, Nora, Charlie Cruz, George Lamond, Brenda K. Starr, Victor, Manuelle and Gilberto Santa Rosa.
And wanders familiar with the hot rhythms of salsa music might catch the underlying sound of the clave, a wooden instrument whose tapping or clicking underscores every salsa song. The Merengue, which came into mainstream fashion in the late 1990s, is among the most wild, fast and hot dances known in any club.
If you happen to be walking in the area early on Friday evening, you might catch sight of cars pulling up in front of the Sandlewood, Radisson Hotel's restaurant and night spot, eloquently dressed men and women climbing out of their cars. Like other sophisticated Latin nightclubs, the Radisson maintains a strict dress code, with management claiming they wish to keep the sense of glamour such places provide.
As these guests make they way in for dinner and later some instruction on the basic steps of the more famous Latin dances, valets take and park the cars, a service provided freely by the hotel for the night.
Best kept secret in the Hudson club scene
Last year, management at the Radisson, which is located at 350 Route 3 West at Mill Creek Drive, kicked off the Friday night Latino dancing as an experiment, never realizing it would take off the way it has.
"We have a huge Latino market here in Secaucus," said Al Hamdi, the general manager of the Radisson. "We noticed that no one was tapping into that market, so we decided to hold a Latino night."
The hotel club developed numerous special promotions to entice people to sample the evening's festivities, and even spread flyers locally, although word of mouth and love for music and dance seem to have brought more people to the Radisson. Hamdi called it the best-kept secret in the Hudson County club scene.
Hamdi said the program can include a live band or DJ, but always presents an opportunity for people to meet and dance.
"Latino music is driving, and people can't help but dance to it," Hamdi said.
The Radisson's Latino night, he said, has become a place where people can meet in a safe environment, dance and enjoy the music. Many of the people who come are upscale business people who just happen to like Latino music.
The Radisson has shaped the entire night around a Latino theme, starting with a free Latin Buffet from 5 to 7 p.m., and free Salsa Instructions from 6 to 7 p.m. with music provided by DJ El Commandante.
While there is a strict dress code, this also adds to the attractiveness of the occasion, since the idea is to allow people a place where they can dress up and enjoy the high style associated with the Latin music culture.
The room promotes this sense of quality itself. The Sandlewood lounge, in which the event is held, is framed in marble and mahogany that brings to life the European textures of the Spanish culture.
Hamdi said people come to the place not just from other parts of Hudson County, but from all over the metropolitan area.
"Women especially have been calling us to find out about it," he said. "We've received calls from as far away as Staten Island."