This month, Kyiv’s best-loved Latin American hotspot marks its 20th year. It’s a feat not many clubs in the Ukrainian capital can boast, and they are celebrating.
What started off as a no name café, turned Cuban restaurant in 1998, has become what concert-goers and nightlifers know and love today as the Caribbean Club.
Latin American Hotspot
The place is buzzing. It’s getting ready for whatever show happens to be on the schedule this evening, with a sound check ready to kick off at any moment. It would seem this is business as usual since the place transformed from a plucky Latin American nightclub to a serious concert hall. The venue’s director and owner, Ihor Ilyuk, sits down.
“Ukrainians had yet to develop a palette for Cuban food,” he starts, recalling that in those first days people would come for the music, for the dancing, but not the cuisine. Regardless, the halls were packed with people even then, both Ukrainians and internationals alike. “The coat check was always brimming,” he says smiling. And, as someone who used to visit often, the same could be said of other rooms necessary in a venue that serves drinks…
As the club idea developed more, the restaurant became less of a feature, creating space for a Latin American hotspot. “It was a fifth of the size it is today,” he recalls, and gathered people because the “atmosphere was different to other clubs of the time. The club was like a second home to many,” says Ilyuk – a feeling that resonated, and exists yet today. “Even diplomats who have finished their postings in Kyiv will fly in for the weekend and come straight from the airport, suitcase in tow!” he laughs.
Since 2013, following a complete overhaul, the club evolved again from what used to be a hotbed of salsa, where the floor was open to anyone willing or wanting to twist their hips and rock to a beat, into a serious concert hall, featuring up to 300 concerts a year. Open seven days a week, that means some event going on nearly every day.
Ilyukh is diplomatic when speaking about other clubs and why they have succeeded or not in the face of the Caribbean Club’s 20 years: “We have tried to hold on to our atmosphere throughout. We don’t need to make crazy money.” The club isn’t easily swayed by fashionable trends either, he admits. “We pay attention to what is happening, but I am old school, and this is a classic bar. We take care of our customers and those who keep coming back – perhaps that is our secret.”
The concert hall is not just an amenable atmosphere for visitors however; local and international artists alike maintain the venue is one that is hard to top. And the sound – few clubs, if any, can compare.
The Heart of Havana
The venue itself, though it has undergone changes in its mature 20 years retains the feeling of Havana in its atmosphere and feel. Any night of the week you can come and fall into one of their leather armchairs, slowly sip on a Caipirinha while the sensual smoke of kalyan ripples around the room, and (almost) be transported to a place somewhere in the Caribbean.
Hungry? Make sure you grab a menu. Alongside a few Cuban-inspired options, the best from French, Italian, even Thai dishes are available. Ilyuk says their goal is to ensure that every dish is as good as it would be in the country of origin. “Even our Chicken Kyiv is one of the best in the city!” he laughs. (On this, WO readers should stay tuned for a possible competition among Kyiv restauranteurs).
With the drums sounding, our time comes to an unofficial end. I shake the hand of the man who sees the Caribbean Club as more than just a place to have fun, but as a way of life. I, along with the rest of the city interested in celebrating one of Kyiv’s iconic venues, will be back, pronto.
Igor Ilyuk, owner of Caribbean Club, is a strict businessman. And yet, there is a softness when he smiles, which he does often, if reluctantly. His secret to success and life in general: be honest with yourself.
Open: 18.00 – 06.00
Caipirinha – Brazil’s best loved cocktail (and made with pizzazz at Caribbean Club)
lime, sugar, Cachaça, ice
20 Years of the Caribbean Club
Numerous stars will be in attendance along with a fabulous show is planned!
23 February at 23.00
Caribbean Club (Petlury 4)
Check out the teaser: