There are a handful of excellent clubs to be found in the beautiful colonial mansions of yore that remain scattered around the city, saved for now from the bulldoze-to-high-rise route that has claimed so many. Casa Rosa and Casa da Matriz are perhaps the two most famous, the former a beautiful house of fun high on the Laranjeiras hillside, the latter a perfectly grimy Botafogo club.
The home of Bar Bukowski, however, is every bit as impressive but rather more off the beaten track. First opened in a smaller Botafogo location in 1997, it soon became a cult spot for rock fans, as resident DJ Rafael Barreto explains;
"With few other clubs dedicated to rock it soon filled up. After just a few nights there were customers in the workers areas helping out, barmen on the dancefloor - everyone wanted to be there and everyone wanted to hear The Who, Hendrix and The Doors, music just not played elsewhere. For various reasons Bukowski disappeared at the end of the '90s but it soon came back." Indeed there were two other false starts before the current venue was found, but the current Rua Alvaro Ramos spot has been filling up week after week for five years.
You cannot help but think Charles Bukowski would approve of the rock 'n' roll parties that go on behind the main gate. Entering down the side alley, the doorway leads directly into the action - a small, dark dancefloor that gets sweaty early on and never lets up. Upstairs are two more rooms with pool tables, couches and plenty of space for louche behaviour.
The jewel in the crown is the courtyard out the back, however. The open-air bar churns out cocktails and beers and the crowds pack together to witter, flirt and prepare to make another assault on the dancefloor. Another bar is tucked around the side, making Bukowski the perfect place to sneak off into quieter corners if you have more than drinking and dancing in mind.
Barreto keeps the music rocking and the party people happy as he has done here for years, with The Strokes, Kings of Leon and Phoenix among current tracks lighting up the floor. But the crowd is open-minded. The weekend of the Paul McCartney show in May, Barreto played Silly Love Songs as the 6am closer and the whole room sang along. "It is moments like that that are the reason for our work as DJs. More valuable than any money."
Raphael Barretto plays every Friday at Bar Bukowski