Openings and Closings

Copacabana: A Sneak Peek at the New Fort Lauderdale Club (Photos)

Back in the day, A-list performers like Sammy Davis Jr. and Jerry Lewis routinely took the stage at New York's storied Copacabana nightclub, helping to build the sense of mystique and glamour that still surrounds the legendary club today. This fall, the entity will open an outpost in downtown Fort Lauderdale, and while the likes of Dean Martin and Marvin Gaye won't be hitting the stage, the management has big plans for the space.

John Cestare, a consultant working with the New York-based Copacabana Supper Club to open the South Florida location, said a soft opening is tentatively planned for August. The grand opening is planned for September 20. The club was originally scheduled to open in early summer, but the date was pushed back to ensure that the space measures up to the standards set by the parent company.

"We have to keep it in line with the original concept," Cestare said. "We're taking parts of the old Copa and making it fresh for today."

Assistant general manager Jose Sanchez said the club will roll out its various concepts in waves. The first three months will focus on the nightclub aspects with an emphasis on weekend hours with live music, DJs, and other entertainment. The next phase will see the addition of hours and the supper club element with an option for fine dining in the large main area.

Sanchez said the club -- which has a license to stay open until 4 a.m. -- will keep a transitional vibe, flowing from happy hour, into the dinner and dancing hours, and finally into a night club atmosphere. A stage in the center of the main room can accommodate an eight-piece band with additional space for multiple singers, which Sanchez said is ;particularly desirable for nights when salsa and merengue bands perform. Dance lessons may be added to the list of entertainment options, which includes comedy shows and a variety of local and national musical acts; Latin music will be a strong focus.

Management is still in the process of developing the food and drink menus but Sanchez did say the club is considering the idea of having each bartender developing his or her own signature drink or cocktail, an idea that may help to foster a sense of customer loyalty to not only the club, but the staff.

"We're trying to make it very personable," Sanchez said. "It's going to be very customer service oriented."

The approximately 300-seat club has already processed between 300 and 350 applications for employment and they're continuing the hiring process for at least the next few weeks. Among the positions available are "Copa girls," the lovely ladies in festive and glamourous costumes who perform nightly in the club. Cestare said the orientation and training process for all positions will be fairly rigorous.

Once things are in full swing, Cestare said catering, special events, and parties (like office Christmas parties and bachelorette shindigs) will be an important part of the business plan. He said they've already booked two weddings for the fall. Dinner and show packages also will be available. Sanchez repeatedly stressed the goal of keeping the club "classy." To that end, a dress code will be enforced and most nights will include a minimal cover charge.

Have a story -- good, bad, or ugly -- from the original Copacabana (and preferably involving a celeb)? Share them in the comments section, and find more images after the jump.

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Tricia Woolfenden