RIP Club LaVela
As I was browsing Facebook on Monday afternoon, I came across a post asking if Panama City Beach’s iconic Club LaVela was being torn down.
I immediately clicked on the comments and gasped at the thought of the mere possibility. People were commenting that they hoped it was, or it probably had asbestos. Some even said Spinnaker was closing as well.
I turned to our reporter, Ethan and asked if he knew about this.
I was met with, “What’s Club LaVela?”
My mind reeled; I have yet to turn 26, surely I wasn’t getting old enough to remember “things of the past.”
I sighed and explained it was the among was one of the largest clubs in the United States and even pulled up the website to show the amazing ten themed rooms, where you can “party with thousands.”
As I tried to explain the significance of this place, I found myself reminiscing on my youth.
In 2010, I visited Club LaVela for the first time on “teen night.”
I would imagine these were during its last few popular years, but to me going to this club I had heard about on the radio station every time one entered the vicinity was a right of passage.
I remember it so well.
It was Memorial Day Weekend, and myself, and my cousins, Jenny, Katie, Callie, Katy and Rachel were all staying at the family beach house. My cousin also brought her friend, Erika. We were with our parents, of course.
We were listening to the radio, when they aired a commercial for “teen night” featuring Waka Flocka Flame and Roscoe Dash, who would be performing their hit of the 2010 era “No Hands.”
It was at that moment I knew I had to convince my parents to let me go.
My cousins had approval from their parents, so now it was all on me. Of course, my sister couldn’t attend, but I was 14 and officially a ~teen,~ so I would fit in perfectly.
After long talks of stay together, and watch your soda; it could be spiked, they finally agreed.
Now, the most important part.
What does a 14-year-old wear to Club LaVela on teen night when seeing the most infamous rapper of the times?
Well, I don’t know about everyone else, but I wore a Yellow Limited Too top and Old Navy jean shorts with my hair straightened and some gold sandals. Looking back, it was an awful outfit choice, but my next return to Club LaVela would feature one only worse.
We arrived in Panama City later that night and I walked into the infamous club with a wristband on, sticking closely by my cousins.
The concert was out beside the pool, where my mom claims she sat when she was pregnant with me.
The thought of my mom at LaVela when pregnant is worse than the thought of my outfit. I guess the 90’s were a different time.
Anyway, the concert began and a boy tapped me on the shoulder and asked for a lighter.
I was so naïve at the time. I had never met any teenager that smoked, and I had no idea why someone would need a lighter at a concert. I thought he intended on burning down the building, so I said no.
Low and behold, he found one and smoked behind me the whole time, so I smelled like cigarettes, which my mother found oddly suspicious and thought I must be smoking.
I remember the night being a great time and I couldn’t wait to return to school and tell all my friends about my first clubbing experience.
I returned in the summer of 2011 with a friend visiting from Ohio.
This same friend is getting married in two weeks; it’s unbelievable how much time has passed.
We were eating dinner at the Saltwater Grill with our parents when she said she had never been and wanted to go.
Our dads were all about encouraging us to go; they apparently had plans of sitting on the outside in a different room hanging out and catching up.
When I say we were decked out, we showed up to the club with her in a yellow dress and myself in a nautical print dress with wedges that had bows on them.
We walked in, feeling like total adults.
And, more than that, a guy asked her to dance.
At my school, we had to have five feet of space between us to dance. So, this was eye opening to say the least.
I do believe they traded Blackberry BBM names.
It was great first club experience for her, and last time at LaVela for me.
I haven’t been since, but was still heartbroken to hear it may be torn down.
I’ll never forget my two times there, and if you never had a teen night there, I hope this column serves as a moment for you to live vicariously through me.