Aruba Bar & Lounge
Aruba Bar & Lounge is a skeleton of a space. It's a basement bar sandwiched between two equally forgettable retail spots on Spadina near Dundas in the heart of Chinatown ., Look for scantily clad smokers and scowling doorman rather than a sign.
There's no escaping the Caribbean connotation with a name like Aruba. The doors, to my surprise, open to a sterile blackness. (Those in heels - navigate accordingly; this is one of the worst-lit staircases in the city.)
There's no mistaking the dance-centricity of Aruba. Inside, it resembles a bachelor's attempt to convert his living room to a party-friendly space. It's totally empty, save for a few couches shoved against the wall; the coat check table, manned by two bored-looking guys; and a wet bar, nestled in the opposing corner. The only light in the entire place behind the bar highlights bottles of Grey Goose, Hennessy and Johnnie Walker Red.
A cute bartender notices me quickly and my whiskey-soda is served within seconds, but it's in a plastic cup. And it's no Johnnie, Jameson or even Jack; I could hardly tell, it was so watered down. I put it down on a nearby speaker. There's a ridiculous amount of speakers. There are a few on the ceiling, more against the wall, and the remaining stacked by the DJ booth.
From them, the drum & bass pounds relentlessly, pushily - practically forcing one to dance. A few laser lights zigzag across the room, making the entirely-black interior feel like a crude parody of Tron.
Previously a bubble-tea spot, Aruba has been open since June of last year - so there's little justifying its bare-bones approach to age. There's plenty to whine about, but those bitching are undoubtedly ones who don't belong. Aruba works for what it aims to be. It's a venue for all things electronica, which requires little outside of a decent sound system and space for dancing; things they certainly have.