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Mike Soul, a local DJ who has appeared at and/or organized events at Olé Madrid, On Broadway, and Aubergine, points out that 2005 census figures indicate 30 percent of San Diegans are Hispanic.

"There are 50 venues downtown, and only 1 offers Latin music [Café Sevilla]; that's 2 percent. Either there's a bit of racism, or the owners and managers [of Gaslamp nightspots] aren't making the smartest business decisions. It's obvious [Hispanics] have never felt welcomed downtown. They've just never felt comfortable here. [Gaslamp bar owners] don't understand them or even want to understand them. [Clubs] are staying safe because they just want to stay afloat; no one wants to take a risk."

Soul, the new general manager of Heat (a 275-capacity club on Fifth Avenue), says he will feature Latin dance music every Friday and Saturday beginning March 16.

When it opened in January '06, Soul says Heat had an initial surge in business.

"Like the new girl on the block, everyone wants to date you. But after a few months it was, like, 'been there, done that.' People want to move on to something new.... [DJs at Heat were] doing cookie-cutter hip-hop and house music. But it is too hard to try and take on the big dogs like the Stingaree, On Broadway, and Belo with the same music....

"Everybody now is into mash-ups, where they collide rock and hip-hop. But it just doesn't sound that good. It has no vibe.

"Most people assume Latin is salsa or music that promotes cowboy hats and boots. But there is so much style and grace...like, house music with Spanish lyrics and congas. We'll also do rock en español or Latin pop hits."

(Croce's offers Latin jazz bands three or four times a month. Olé Madrid hosts flamenco dancing that includes a Spanish guitarist during dinnertimes.)

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