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The significance of a new, upscale Latin club called La Luna in the heart of the Theater District goes beyond the promised entertainment value.

"We identify with our experience and our culture," said Frankie Perez, a longtime activist in the Hispanic community. "We need a club like this. It gives us a way to get back to our roots. We want music that we can feel, taste and savor."

La Luna is scheduled to open in October in the Calumet Building at the site of the former Irish Classical Theater on West Chippewa Street.

It will be operated by Mark Goldman and his son, Charlie. The building is undergoing a major renovation; though most of the work is still being done now, the Goldmans are optimistic about opening next month.

Both became immersed in Latin culture after spending time in Miami.

Mark Goldman's Calumet Arts Cafe has become a haven for Latin sounds and culture in recent years, featuring Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican music, food and art.

"We've made a real commitment to bring Latin music to mainstream Buffalo, and now we're getting more serious about it with La Luna," Goldman said, adding that the Latin population here is about 25,000.

"For too long, Latin music and culture has been invisible in Buffalo, but that's going to change," he said.

La Luna will be open Tuesday through Saturday nights. The club will hold about 300 people, with an elegant but relaxing ambience. Local architect Charles Gordon, along with sculptor Molly Atkinson, contributed to the design, with murals by artist Meg Corcoran.

The musical menu will include salsa, meringue, bolero, Afro-son and tapes and CDs of contemporary artists. Most of the live performances will be by small groups playing at dinnertime and happy hour. Bigger acts still will perform in the Calumet.

Latin dance lessons will be offered at La Luna on Saturday nights and "DJ Efrain" will spin discs until the wee hours.

"This is going to be a hip, classy place where everyone is welcome," Charlie Goldman said. "It will give anyone a chance to experience Latin culture, but it is for all cultures."

A dress code will be enforced, Goldman said: No baseball caps, sneakers, T-shirts or sweat pants will be allowed. "We want to create a upscale atmosphere," he said.

"We want this to be a place where a professional person can come and feel comfortable," said Perez, who has been an unpaid adviser to the Goldmans. "This is a place with a real sensitivity to the Latin community and I think the patrons will make it a success."

The Goldmans are keeping an eye on all the details. They even commissioned residents of Los Tainos, a senior citizen complex on Seventh Street, to make finger foods that will be served, though the club will not serve main-course meals.

The furniture and decorations are being done in a Latin motif, and Latin artists will contribute works.

La Luna will expose traditional Latin music to the community, and that pleases Buffalo musician Wendell Rivera, who has a national following.

"This is a way to show our music to everyone," Rivera said. "There has been a need for this in Buffalo for a long time, and now it's finally happening."

Profits may come, but right now it looks like a risk for Mark Goldman, who has long been putting his time and money into reviving the downtown arts scene.

"I've hocked my house to get this club going," Goldman said. He added the total cost for La Luna is about $175,000 thus far.

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