El Convento Rico
El Convento Rico is a cross between a Latin club and a gay bar that’s been around for over twenty-five years. They’re known for their legendary drag shows that start every Saturday at half past midnight, as well as Latin dance classes and shows, and male revues.
It’s situated on a strip of College known for its nightlife, where the street makes a weird curve almost as if swaying on its feet itself, almost next door to the Mod Club and across the street from a 24-hour Metro that makes for excellent late-night drunken snack runs.
Of course, there’s also the winding, trundling streetcar route and the somewhat treacherous bike lanes right outside, making this place super easy to get to for non-driving clubbers, ideal for intoxication. It’s noticeable from its somewhat eerie circular portrait of a nun above the door.
This marks the entrance to the basement club. Red carpets and heat lamps outside complete the exclusive club feel.
Down the stairs, this club is a low-ceilinged, strobey, dark and mysterious wonderland, light strips flashing on the ceiling, Latin songs and remixes pounding from the sound system.
I’m most surprised by the demographic range in here on a Saturday night, ranging from very young groups of women who almost look they could be minors to folks that could be creeping up on my parents’ age. The main similarity: none of them look unhappy.
From a couple bottle options that seem faster and more palatable than ordering a shot or mixed drink, I opt for a Sol, a light Mexican beer similar to Corona, more my pace than technicolour Rev or Smirnoff Ice.
I’m impressed by how, unlike some clubs where it seems like an effort to even include ice and straws, every bottle of Sol gets plugged with a lime wedge, despite the clamouring demand of customers lining up three, four, or five deep at several bars positioned around the space.
Drag shows are unique as a rule, but there’s one highly unconventional thing about the ones here: there’s no stage. Patrons are made to clear a circle in the centre of the club, and stars sashay around the empty area, swinging around and grinding up on the poles holding up the ceiling.
Security guards strain to hold back mobs of screaming women hoping to be pulled into the action, mostly bachelorette party attendees. A few brides-to-be are pulled in for a quick roundabout before being shoved back into place.
In typical drag show style, girls start and end with group acts, lip syncing to tunes like the Cell Block Tango from Chicago, individual performances in between featuring songs from the likes of Mariah Carey.