May 23, 2003

Hot Monkey Love Café: Diverse Entertainment with a Latin Flair

By John Philip Wyllie

While coffeehouses have sprouted up over the last few years faster than the red tile roofs blanketing San Diego’s recently pastoral landscape, only a relative few offer much in the way of entertainment. Fewer still offer the choices available at Alma and Rick Felan’s Hot Monkey Love Café. Located near SDSU at 5960 El Cajon Boulevard, the coffeehouse with the strange name attracts a highly diverse crowd. Adolescents like it because it is one of the few music and entertainment venues they can enter since it serves no liquor. Older working adults like it because the music and entertainment often starts as early as 6:00 p.m. That makes it possible to go out on a weeknight, hear some quality local entertainment and be back in bed soon enough to face the daily grind early the following morning. Its diverse entertainment however, is what truly sets it apart.

Being of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, Alma Felan is naturally attracted to the various forms of Latin music.

“Sunday nights are our Latin Salsa nights and once a month I am going to add a little more ethnicity to it by featuring groups that delve into Latin roots music,” Felan explained. “One of the very cool groups we have is called Arito Americano. They play Puerto Rican rhythms on drums and feature their own dancers. I’m looking right now for more Latino talent, especially Spanish speaking spoken word performers to add to what we already have on Sunday nights.


Rick and Alma Felan, proprietors of the Hot Monkey Love Cafe.

On Monday nights, the Baja Buggs share the stage with an ever-changing group of up and coming comedians. The Baja Buggs, a South Bay Hispanic band led by Hector Penalosa, specialize in early Beatles music and songs that inspired the Beatles when they were just another little known band working the dreary clubs of Hamburg and Liverpool.

In addition to performing some of the Beatles’ least known compositions, the Baja Buggs often shower their audience with prizes such as CDs and sometimes allow those bold enough, to join them on stage in song.

“The owners of the Hot Monkey Love Café are true art lovers,” said Penalosa. “They present music, poetry, art and comedy and do it because they are sincere supporters of it, not for the money. For us, it is great to have the regular opportunity every Monday night to play in front of an enthusiastic live audience. We are here to support their business just as they are here to support us.”

“Tuesday night is HipHop night at the Hot Monkey love Café,” said Felan. “It focuses on the different forms of the spoken word and on poetry. We often have break dancers. Wednesday night is our open mike night where lots of different performers will come in and sing two or three songs. Thursday nights are our Jazz and Blues nights. On Friday nights, we offer East and West Coast swing dancing. Saturday nights we have featured artists. Right now we are promoting three local bands and an acoustic artist.”

Like most coffeehouses, The Hot Monkey Love Café is a place to grab a bite to eat and cup of coffee. It offers a wide variety of hot and cold blended coffee drinks as well as chai and herbal teas. Salads, sandwiches, pastas and desserts are also offered.

The Felans are looking forward to celebrating the first anniversary of the Hot Monkey Love Café in August.

“They purpose of the café is to have an open door for local Hispanic and non-Hispanic artists that are already established or just breaking in,” said Felan. “It is a good place for performers that are seeking more exposure. We provide an atmosphere where musicians will feel comfortable performing.” The biggest winners however, are the patrons who can enjoy an evening of inexpensive and diverse entertainment without staying up all night to do so.

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