The last Rodeo?

The fate of Minnesota's largest Latino concert venue, El Nuevo Rodeo, will be decided Friday before the Minneapolis City Council.

Since 2003, the 16,000-square-foot hot spot on E. Lake Street has booked big-time Latino pop and country acts that attract a bustling Mexican cowboy crowd. But lately, it's been fighting for its survival as Minneapolis officials seek to shut it down.

In 2008, the city began investigating El Nuevo Rodeo for a pattern of offenses. Its findings -- including liquor violations and security issues -- eventually pointed to a proposed liquor license revocation.

Responding to the city's concerns, owner Maya Santamaria beefed up security, installing thousands of dollars in video cameras. The city moved forward with the revocation, citing new problems. Santamaria contested, landing the case before a judge in January.

Off-duty cops testified that El Nuevo Rodeo generates fewer police reports than downtown clubs do. Neighborhood and business groups backed the club as a positive cultural force in the community. The judge sided with Santamaria, saying the city didn't provide sufficient evidence for revocation. A City Council subcommittee agreed with the judge's findings, moving its recommendations along for full council approval Friday.

"I feel like justice was served," Santamaria said. "I was pleasantly surprised. I thought, 'Thank God, he got it.'"

Santamaria said she is still baffled by the city's initial push to shutter her establishment. "For one thing, I think there is a lot of anti-Hispanic sentiment, whether people like to admit it or not," she said.

This weekend, El Nuevo Rodeo will get a chance to show off its reputation when it hosts its second annual Cinco de Mayo block party, which attracted more than 4,000 people last year. Two stages will feature a lineup of Mexican bands, including national headliners Huichol Musical and La Autoridad de La Sierra."This is a really good opportunity to come and see what we do at the Rodeo," Santamaria said.

But before Sunday's event, the City Council will decide the club's long-term future. The council has the right to reject or modify the judge's findings. Both sides said they expect El Nuevo Rodeo to stay open.

  • Tom Horgen

501 Club turns 1

On the occasion of the 501 Club's first anniversary bash, it's worth mulling over the things that made the 331 Club's sister venue the most vibrant rock club to open in downtown Minneapolis in many years. It probably wasn't the room itself, a decent if misshaped space. And based on all the PBR drinkers, it wasn't the above-average beer and wine list. Credit must go to its trendsetting tastes in talent booking, and to the fact that it's always affordable, with no cover and plenty of street parking. Both of those strengths are on full display in the two-night anniversary lineup, with Gospel Gossip, Zoo Animal and No Bird Sing on Friday and Red Pens, Double Bird and the Guystorm on Saturday (10 p.m., free as always).

  • Chris Riemenschneider

Straub returns to the runway

It was only last August that former "Project Runway" contestant Christopher Straub, with fellow designer Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman, celebrated the premiere of their "Runway" season at the St. Paul Hotel. Last Sunday at the same venue, Straub appeared to have come full circle with his debut runway collection.

It was the first time since "Runway" that we've seen clothing designs from Straub, who has been focusing on his accessories line. Straub's collection carried a modern mass appeal coupled with the distinctive flavor for which he was known on "Runway" -- feminine, ruffled confections accented with tough leather and stud details.

His aesthetic was decidedly hit-or-miss throughout the show. His missteps came when leaning too heavily on his aesthetic; though wearable and well made, many looks were predictable and nothing you couldn't find in a department store. But on the "hit" side, there were some truly inspired pieces. Thanks to a softly structured silhouette, a black textured vinyl skirt accented with silver studs managed to combine femininity and edge, as did a floor-length navy blue dress paired with a show-stopping, sculpted black vinyl corset.

Straub seemed just as adept in his menswear, which included denim jeans and sporty leather jackets, but it was a shame there were only two looks. And of course, Straub played to his strengths by incorporating his tough-meets-pretty handbags and belts throughout the show. A monochromatic look that paired electric blue skinny leather pants with a jacket of folded ruffles elicted oohs and ahhs, as did a finale gown that appeared to be made of green metallic foil.

Special guest and self-proclaimed "world's first supermodel" Janice Dickinson nearly stole the show with her off-kilter introduction in which she called the designer "Christian Straub" and quipped, "I'm so old they have to lift me onto the runway." The biggest cheers, however, were for the designer himself, whose everyguy charm and approachable aesthetic have made him a bona fide local celeb.

  • Jahna Peloquin