One of South Florida's hottest hip-hop and Latin venues isn't even in Dade County. To the north, sandwiched between the desolate wastelands we call Weston and Miramar, an odd little joint known as Cafe Iguana Pines has been giving people a reason to commute to Pembroke Pines for years.
After some pricy remodeling over five years ago, the nightclub suddenly began to attract top-tier artists like Future, NE-YO, Daddy Yankee, and more.
“It definitely puts our name out there more,” says Kurt Weller, who serves as the club’s operation manager. “The artists make us an attraction and bring more attention to what we’re doing here in Pembroke Pines. You’ll see Chris Brown at every club, but you won’t see Usher at every club.”
Cafe Iguana Pines attracts a wide range of clientele with its themed events throughout the week, from #TouchTheMicTuesdays to #BFFFridays featuring 99 JAMZ (WEDR-FM) hosts DJ Nailz and DJ Nasty. The club often switches up the flow on Wednesday and Saturday nights for Latin and international music.
Chad Thomas, one of several lead promoters, and marketing director Abebe Lewis started off by curating karaoke events every Tuesday at the club nearly six years ago. Eventually they began to bring in R&B legends like Tank, Ne-Yo, and the most recent headliner, "Permission" singer Ro James, to bless the stage. Thanks to their bountiful relationships within the music industry, both Thomas and Lewis have been able to attract rising hip-hop and R&B artists while bringing in capacity crowds.
“Chad and I worked together doing major concerts at James L. Knight Center,” Lewis explains. “So that opens us up to the whole realm to be able to get a better relationship with these guys to do the clubs. Cafe Iguana is a unique club that can hold a capacity of 3,000. It’s almost like a concert hall more than a club, so it takes a whole lot to fill that club.”
Up-and-coming locals like Ball Greezy, Brisco, and Freebandz rapper Zoey Dollaz also garnered new fans by performing at #TouchTheMicTuesdays, a night where rising artists have the opportunity to open for some of the best acts in the industry.
“It was really about helping them out,” Thomas says.
Cafe Iguana Pines wants to continue to bring in the heavyweight champs of hip-hop, but for now, let's take a look back at some of the venue's craziest bookings.
10. Rich Homie Quan & DeJ Loaf
Rich Homie Quan infiltrated Cafe Iguana Pines before the end of 2015 along with “Try Me” rapper DeJ Loaf. Although she couldn’t fully deliver a grand performance because she was sick, Loaf did the best she could to perform songs like “Back Up." Afterward, Rich Homie Quan kept the show hype by performing his well-known tracks like “Flex” and “They Don’t Know.”
9. Tego Calderon
Late last year, reggaeton legend Tego Calderon took over Cafe Iguana Pines as the star of its weekly #InternationalSaturdays event. The Puerto Rican native filled the club with die-hard fans and, of course, Team Hennessy (the event's sponsor). As the crowd echoed his name throughout the hallways of the club, Tego busted out his classic hits like “Punte y Aparte” and “Pa' Que Retozen.”
Not long ago, singer/songwriter NE-YO found solace in Miami when he came to town to record new music. While he was in South Florida, the crooner wanted to do something different at a club outside the typical South Beach venues. He drove way out to Pembroke Pines, and with no beach in sight, churned out club records like his Pitbull-assisted “Give Me Everything” and “Closer."
7. Daddy Yankee
Daddy Yankee can easily sell out stadiums during his tours across the world, so you can imagine what it looked like inside Cafe Iguana for his major show in 2013. Both floors of the club were jam-packed to capacity, but that didn’t stop loyal fans from enjoying his epic performance. As bottle girls marched out Hennessy like ants collecting crumbs, the “Machucando” rapper put on one hell of a show at the stage in front of the VIP section.
6. Meek Mill, Nicki Minaj, & DJ Khaled
Last year, Cafe Iguana Pines gave LIV a run for its money when Meek Mill invaded the club one Sunday. “That was a monumental night” Lewis told us. “Every table was sold out that night.” Before the MMG rapper’s legal woes imploded, Meek held a major concert at the club and brought superstar guests like DJ Khaled and his wifey Nicki Minaj. Other major guests like Trick Daddy, boxer Adrien Broner, and Dre of Cool & Dre were scattered throughout the VIP section all night.
A few months ago, Queensbridge emcee Nas dominated Cafe Iguana along with his Mass Appeal signee Dave East. According to Lewis, Nas loved the hometown vibes of the club. Usually, Nas stops by LIV or Story in South Beach. At Iguana, however, he really felt the love inside the walls, from fans to security guards.
Jeezy knows how to give back to the community the right way. Back in 2013, the Atlantic Records rapper spent Thanksgiving night at Cafe Iguana right after releasing his CTE label’s mixtape #ItsTheWorld2. Although he was seated up top, Jeezy eventually made his way downstairs to party with the locals as he shouted out neighborhoods like Plantation. “He’s for the streets,” Lewis says. “He’s got a lot of ties here in Miami so he does his rounds. He goes around to the different neighborhoods in Broward and Miami Gardens to meet the streets. That’s why Jeezy wins.”
3. August Alsina
Back in 2014, August Alsina touched the mic on a Tuesday during his “Testimony” tour. The set was basically one long scream from the crowd as Alsina performed nearly every song off his debut album, from “Pornstar” to “Kissin’ on My Tattoos.” “It was different that night,” Thomas says. “Because we thought he only had that one song at the time. It was a gamble, but it turned out to be nice.”
2. Chris Brown & Usher
A few months back, Chris Brown was booked to host BFFFridays at Cafe Iguana; however, he did more than what was asked of him. The singer not only performed several of his major hits, but he also brought a very special friend along. Usher tried his hardest to keep a low profile in the back of the VIP section, but Breezy eventually pulled him up front to bust out a few hits of his own. “For a star of [Brown's] magnitude to be in Iguana," Lewis says, “it was crazy. He was slated to host the party and he ended up performing. Then he brought Usher along with him.” It's safe to say the crowd got its money's worth that night.
1. Future & Metro Boomin’
Future and Young Metro packed out Cafe Iguana Pines unlike any artist had ever done before. With over 2,000 loyal members of the #FutureHive in attendance, Future and Metro Boomin’ made every speaker in the venue bounce with hit after hit after hit. Facing an army of camera phones, and with Young Metro by his side, Future dished out turnt up renditions of songs like “March Madness” and “Trap N*ggas.” “That was insane,” Lewis remembers. “Future packed that place out. Everybody rapped every word he said. It was amazing.”
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.