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Legendary New York nightclub Copacabana is back! It relaunches this Saturday in Hell’s Kitchen with a jubilant, carnival-themed jamboree at its new W51st Street location.

Ruben Rubin Cabrera has converted his Hell’s Kitchen event space into the new Copacabana. All Photos: Phil O’Brien

Copacabana originally opened in 1940 and would eventually welcome notable performances from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Sam Cooke — several of whom would go on to record live albums at the venue. The iconic nightclub was one of the early victims of the pandemic and closed its Times Square location on 8th Avenue and W47th Street in May 2020.

But music and passion has brought longtime Copacabana owner John Juliano and nightlife impresario Ruben Rubin Cabrera together for a triumphant return of The Copacabana. After founding owner Jules Podell died in 1973, the club shut down for several years, reopening in 1976 under the leadership of Juliano. The serial nightclub owner told W42ST while sitting at a booth in a midtown diner: “It was my pet, the Copacabana was my pet and still is.” He rebuilt an environment where “people started coming in from the old days — Desi Arnaz, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett — I met all of those people,” says Juliano. 

The Copacabana near Times Square closed in May 2020.

Among his favorite Copa memories is serving Bob Hope a drink at the bar (he regrets making him pay for it) and spending 3 hours in conversation with Clint Eastwood and his wife — “He had 7 gin and tonics, but walked out of there straight as an arrow.” 

This melding of 40s Golden Age mystique and 70s hazy, boisterous discotheque was forever immortalized in Barry Manilow’s 1978 smash-hit Copacabana (At the Copa). The song, a fictional, three-act tale of one showgirl’s descent into madness over her murdered lover, hit the Billboard Top Ten in 1978 and would go on to be adapted into a full-length TV movie musical and cult hit stage production. 

Cabrera and Juliano work through the final details for Saturday night opening of Copacabana at midtown diner.

It was within this world of glitz, glamor, and Copacabana showgirls that Cabrera first fell in love with nightlife. He grew up in Hell’s Kitchen and found himself working as a teenager at a catering hall on East 60th Street in 1979. The owner used to go to the Copa on Tuesday nights, “and one Tuesday he invited me to go with him. “He said, ‘Let me take you downtown and show you the real club scene’,” Cabrera recalls. He was only 14, “I was a tall, skinny kid who looked older than I was,” and the owner “bought me my first suit” to wear to the club.

Cabrera put on the suit and snuck into the Copa, where he was smitten by the big band and the bright, noisy, world of nightlife. “The Copa girls were my first love — I fell in love with them, I fell in love with the bartender, I fell in love with the club scene and I have been in it ever since.” 

Cabrera had been running the venue as Casa 51 up to the onset of COVID, now he’s thrilled to be bringing the vibrant energy of the Copa back to Hell’s Kitchen. “I grew up spending a lot of time going to every bar and restaurant in Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen, and spending lots of sleepless nights here,” he says

During his over 45 year tenure, Juliano has run nightclubs throughout Hell’s Kitchen including Copacabana venues on 11th Avenue at W34th and W57th Street as well as the famed Red Parrot and Emerald City. He hosted the Copa’s most recent location in Times Square, where he expanded the club’s reach by positioning it close to bustling tourist hotspots. A stroke and the COVID-19 shutdown forced him to step back, but he has since recovered and is excited to bring back “Latin dancing — there’s no place to go to do salsa and merengue, this will be it.” 

The new Copacabana is on W51st Street between 11/12th Avenue.

Cabrera and Juliano will start the Copa reunion tour by hosting salsa and bachata nights on Saturdays from 7pm to 2am. Every 2-3 weeks the club will add another night of operations, with the hope to have a full schedule of events like Big Band Tuesdays, comedy Wednesdays, signature gay night Thursdays, and Disco Fridays up and running by May. For now, they’ll plan to be there on Saturday “far before the doors open and well after they close.” 

So grab some yellow feathers for your hair and put on your dress cut down to there for an evening celebrating the new era of the Copa — and make sure to stop by Juliano’s table, where he’ll be holding court all night — “Bring back your memories.”


Ruben and John are promising a raucous, roaring festival of complimentary salsa and bachata lessons, dance hits from every decade featuring sets from DJ Henry Knowles and Elmer and special guest appearances. Tickets start at $20, with premium options that include an open bar ($60) and table reservations with bottle service ($300). Copacabana, 625 W51st Street between 11/12th Avenue. thecopanyc.com

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41 Comments

  1. Loved all the Copas! I was friends with Steven Juliano, we were teenage friends in Throggs Neck. May his soul rest in peace, gone too young.

  2. I think it’s fantastic that the Copa is back. NYC is not the same without the Copacabana. It’s more than a dance club, it’s a landmark next to Studio 54, Palladium, and Roseland too. Let’s bring back the Disco scene, and they should install turntables back into the clubs again too. Let’s show that vinyl rules.

    1. Time to dress up ladies and gentlemen and dance. Beautiful memories and looking forward to new good vibes memories. Hustle salsa night one of my favorite events. Gay nights magnífico. Looking forward to Friday hustle salsa, a little of reggeton, bachata. Will be a perfect night

  3. What an exercise in futility. No one is going to a washed up genre that no one goes out to. Furthermore, the salsa crowd were never big spenders. Today, club exist off bar profits. Back in the day, it existed off both door and bar profits. Different entities and different times. More importantly, Puerto Ricans were the #1 attendees at Copa. Most Puerto Ricans who enjoyed this music are now in Florida.

    This place will either revert to Reggaeton/Latin Hip Hop mix or it will close down due to diminishing returns. It won’t survive with Merengue/Salsa on the main menu past the Summer.

    1. I’m in my 50s. I’ve enough friends in the tri state area that would go here. I liked it as Casa 51. Hopefully Susanne Barscht will do parties in that space like one of the old Copa spaces. Nobody Iknow would be caught dead in Florida.

    2. I work at this new location on 51st street and I can tell you it is nothing what you mention. It’s bringing back the old original copa days! Lots of traditional Latin music, classy dancing and midnight shows amongst a mature, well dressed crowd. We also have food to bite on and traditional carribean cocktails.

  4. Great memories!! Ah! The nights at The Copa!!… I was a fanatic of “THE COPAS”, from the location at 60th st bet. 5th Ave. and Madison, to the location on 47th st and 8th. Ave. Loved those salsa and disco night, no other place offered such great combo. Ladies and gentlemen wore their best elegant outfits, something that should be re-enforced!! From the dancing enthusiasts, their support is much needed for a great club to stay open. From the promoters, they should be focus an provide the best of what made this Club great, great bands, great dj’s, but above all great music!… concentrated in Salsa and Dance Club music, of course, with a splash of the new generation music. Nevertheless, as many people might think that great Salsa has died, y’all have to think twice!! That didn’t happen nor it will!! LA BUENA SALSA NO A MUERTO, LA BUENA SALSA HAY QUE BUSCARLA, SE ENCUENTRA Y SE PRESENTA!!

  5. Congratulations,can’t wait to dance at the Copa again. I was a regular dancer at the Copa on W.47St.,Salsa,Bachata, Merengue, Cha Cha,etc.

  6. What incredible memories! It used to be that you dressed to impress, men 25 and jackets required. There would be a live band. I saw the likes of Marc Anthony, Tito Nieves, Victor Manuel, Tony Vega, Tito Rojas, Frankie Ruiz, Jerry Rivera, El Gran Combo, Los Adoloscentes and so many more. Things are not the same anymore. These bands want too much money which is why you can only see them at the larger venues like the Garden and no one dresses to anymore to go out. Don’t get me wrong, I like the casual dress but miss the dress up. Good luck to the Copa and a new era!

  7. WELCOME BACK COPACABANA….spent so many dancing nights at the club with my friends. The good ole days always a good time at the Copa even during the week the place would be packed with peeps dancing Salsa and coming in to watch whoever they were featuring that night. It would be great to have a latin club back in Hell’s Kitchen. Can’t wait to visit so I can check out the new and improved Copa. Best of Everything.

  8. The most elegant and prestigious night club in New York City history !
    I had the privilege of working at the original location for a year, back in 1991. It was a truly amazing experience !

  9. I can’t wait as a young lady in my 20,s I dance almost every week.

    I love disco, would celebrate my birthday in October there?

  10. I been to the closing of the 1st Copa on 60th St. The I went to the Grand opening on 57th St, then I was at Closing of 57th St. Then I went to the grand opening of the 3rd Copa on 34th St. Then I was at the closing with Gran Combo performing..I also went to the Grand opening of the 4th Copa which was once the China Club…I wish the 5th Copacabana all the BEST✌🙂👍

  11. Always love the Copacabana! Looking forward to go back! Glad your back! I’m 59 years old! Love the old crowd!

  12. I want to be tbe DJ for Disco Nights on Fridays. I am a professional DJ now in my 42nd year. I not only own one of the greatest disco classics collection, I lived thru all the eras of music from funk & disco to house and electronic music. In my professional career, I’ve worked in over 42 clubs and bars and I am currently working at a place in Queens. I’ve been also featured on 2 NYC radio stations and satellite radio as well. Music & Passion is my DJ company name and as you’ve already figured out, it is taken from one of the lyrics of the song “Copacabana”. I would welcome the opportunity to prove myself to you and I guarantee you, and your customers will love what I bring to the table at each and every club gig I perform at.

  13. My husband who is Colombian, and I would come from Baltimore, to spend the weekend in NYC and the Copa was always our Saturday Night fix. We love dancing salsa, and am so happy to see it reopening. My husband who is now 73 and I 65 will be coming back for a weekend of dancing. Congrats. on the new reopening !

  14. the nights of dancing all night is like going back to your youth… I only suggest that they do not allow cell phones so that people can talk more..

  15. Fantastic My Father Paco was the M.C.
    I hope i can be a M.C. as my dad did back in the days.
    I love to bring back Salsa Bands.
    Héctor L Navarro
    The new voice of NYC.

  16. I partied at the first two copas. The one on 60th. Then on 47th. The one on 60th was my favorite though. Many good memories spent there hope and wish them much success on the new one but at the age of 67 I don’t think I’ll return. Pandemic has really changed things. I wish you all the best though.

  17. I attended the Copa during the 80 and even attend the New Year party . It was sad when they moved out of 60street but is good that they are returning .

  18. Very happy to learn about the re opening of the legendary Copa.
    I was a member of the Latino Social Work Council a not profit
    organization raising funds for scholarships..All our events were at the Copa. Guests love the Copa.

  19. The greatest salsa era was between the 1993 to 2006 when The Cops was the area of The Red Parrot you could not enter without slacks, security walked up & down and if you had jeans sneakers hat you were not allowed entry, if you came in a nice suit you were allowed entry, & everyone had to go through the metal detectors I mean everybody don’t care who you were, those were the absolutely greatest times for me I went every Friday & Saturday nights when salsa was its finest, I seen them all….
    I hope they return to those great glory days of letting you in in slacks and shirts and or a nice suit.. There was no fighting back then honestly you had a knuckle head rarely but for the best looking ladies & gentlemen always with that maturity it was priceless….
    I would love to go back to the Copa in time as a regular because I enjoyed it tremendously, long live The Copacabana!!!!

  20. Comedy Night Returns to the Legendary Coppacabana on Wednesday April 27th at 8pm part of the 6th Meadowlands Comedy Festival. Tickets and the full line up visit the box office page at Meadowlandscomedyclub.com…
    There will also be Comedy at the new venue on April 30th 2022….. Tickets range from $25 to $150… Also visit the theCopanyc.com for tickets and more information….. Table reservations call (201)893-9777….

  21. My husband and I, along with another couple, were in N.Y. City back in the early ‘70’s. Can’t remember where the Copa was located at that time, because it’s been so long ago. However, we decided to go to the Copa one night. We saw Dionne Warwick. So wonderful. She introduced the mother of Sammy Davis Junior, who was in the audience not far from our table. That’s how long ago it was!! Will never forget this wonderful night at the Copa. Happy it’s reopening. Good luck to all.

  22. The Copa is a Legend…The Tops…
    I saw Tom Jones perform there in the 70’s.
    It was “The Place To Go”
    And don’t forget
    Ray Liotta…”Goodfellas”
    movie at the Copa.
    Long before you salsa lovers.
    Good Luck.

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