Feelings of nostalgia, perplexity and sadness filled the air at 6922 Staples Mill Road on Thursday, Aug. 30. After six years of traditionally spending Thursday nights at Mexican restaurant and nightclub El Gran Tucanazo, University of Richmond students waved goodbye to the Richmond staple for the final time.
Commonly referred to as “Tucan,” the restaurant-turned-nightclub officially closed its doors after eight years of being in service on Sunday, Sept. 2. The decision to close came at a time when Tucan was essentially reaching its peak, with sold-out events nearly every weekend. Carlos Alvarez, Tucan's owner, said the choice had not been made by him, but by the landlord of the property where Tucan sits.
Alvarez was notified that the land could potentially be sold nearly three months ago by the property’s landlord, but he did not receive an official notice until late July.
Thursday nights at Tucan were typically reserved by UR fraternities, among other groups such as the UR Bumble ambassador team or private parties. Friday nights varied depending on the month, and events ranged from country nights to foam parties. Saturday night was always Spanish Night -- an event Alvarez hosted for Richmond’s Hispanic community, where South American and Mexican country bands were the constant source of entertainment.
“It ended up turning into one of the best-kept secrets of Richmond,” David Sporn, Tucan’s resident DJ, said. “The only way I can describe it is Thursday night was like an underground fraternity party at a Mexican restaurant, where we played heavy electronic music and brought in world-champion DJs. None of it makes any sense, and then we’d have 400 people show up.”
Despite the unusual mix of characteristics that distinguished Tucan from the rest of Richmond’s nightlife -- dance cages among this mix -- the scene remains unparalleled. Its final UR organization-hosted event attracted a full house of students in all class years. The event was hosted by Sigma Phi Epsilon, which was also the first fraternity to host a downtown party at Tucan, in 2012, when the venue first became available to the UR community.
Senior Jake Hooper describes the final night at Tucan as a sentimental way to start the school year. Hooper recalled spending the night of his first birthday in Richmond at Tucan as a first-year and explained that it was a place where students could easily catch up with their friends.
“[Aug. 30] was sad because it’s been a big part of, for seniors especially, our four years at Richmond,” Hooper said.
Senior Caroline Early also reminisced about her times at Tucan throughout her undergraduate career at UR as she reflected on her last time at the club.
“It was definitely surreal, and it’s hard to imagine my experience at Richmond without Tucan, as silly as that may sound,” Early said. “I just feel like it’s a place we went to, not quite weekly, but multiple times a month, for most of my time at Richmond. The fact that it coincides with my senior year is an especially strange kind of feeling that this is all coming to an end soon.”
Undeterred by the abrupt shutdown of his club, Alvarez said he planned to reopen at a new location in Henrico in December, this time as a fully functioning restaurant during the day in addition to serving as a club at night.
“I’m so happy that I was working for [UR students],” Alvarez said. “I really appreciate their support, and I did my best. I’m coming back, I hope with a better club, and we’re going to be all right.”
Sporn, who will be celebrating his 10th anniversary as a DJ this October, has spent over half of his career as Tucan’s resident DJ. He depicted the relationships he has formed with UR students throughout the last six years as beautifully symbiotic.
“The love, the respect, I mean there is truly something special,” Sporn said. “I can’t even put into words what it’s meant to me and my staff. It’s just mind-blowing. I’m grateful, and I can’t believe the half of it.”
Contact lifestyle editor Jasmine Fernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org.