An online friend recently posited that they were sick of hearing people bemoan a lack of local nightlife; that those people who claim to be in search of nighttime entertainment simply weren't looking in the right places. Of course, no one can argue that Santa Fe doesn't shut down a tad earlier than larger cities—that's just the nature of Smalltown, USA—but that doesn't also mean that we can't find things to do once the sun goes down. You just have to know where to look and at what times. Below, find a handy list of venues and events (in no particular order) that might just scratch that late-night itch. Y'know, late for Santa Fe, anyway.
103 E Water St., 982-1189
Proprietor Winston Greene took over the old Atomic Grill space on Water Street some years back, and has since turned it into a vibrant venue for carefully concocted cocktails and late-night jazz. Most shows don't even begin until 9:30 pm, and given the caliber of musician (Jeremy Bleich, Casey Anderson, Loren Bienvenu and Brian Haas, to name just a few), it's quietly grown into one of the more happening spots in town. Jazz; happening—what have we even become?
El Rey Court, 1862 Cerrillos Road, 982-1931
Though we've heard the term "hispter" bandied about from some of our more disagreeable pals, La Reina's bright atmosphere, focus on mezcal and minimalist style have slingshot the fledgling hotel bar into one of the can't-miss Santa Fe pit stops you always hear about. Sometimes it hosts music, sometimes the hotel pool is emptied and becomes an art gallery, sometimes you're just looking to quaff something in a different part of town. This is that place.
Meow Wolf Adult Night
1352 Rufina Circle, 395-6369
When the locals cried out for nights without kids, everybody's favorite arts mega-corp answered the call and set about designing an adults-only play session for the 21-and-over set. Now, every Thursday from 8-10 pm, the House of Eternal Return politely asks the kids to beat it while the Float Bar (MW's brand-appropriate watering hole) serves up them fancy drinks and beer, too. We realize this isn't late-night by larger cities' terms, but it's still something.
1228 Calle de Commercio, facebook.com/TheCAVE666
A recent SFR cover story doled out some of the DIY metal venue's history, but for any metalheads who missed the call, The Cave is hosting the best in local and touring metal acts pretty much all the time. Shows start at 8 pm, the cover is usually around $10 and you just plain know you'll see the best of the best—expect to have your face melted clean off.
2899 Trades West Road, facebook.com/ggghhhooosssttt
The HQ of local label Matron Records, a decidedly punk rock take on the DIY venue and the space that nearly single-handedly proved to Santa Fe that a bunch of nerds with an artsy/musical dream didn't need official venues to have a good time, Ghost. has carved a niche so important and so excellent that the years before its existence just kind of feel like a waste of time. That's hyperbole, but to say we love this place so hard we might cry absolutely isn't. Most shows start around 8 pm.
530 S Guadalupe St., 988-7222
With shows in recent years including Siberian rockabilly phenoms The Red Elvises and hip-hop royalty The Alkaholiks, Boxcar's later start time on shows (almost always 10 pm) not only proves there's a place for people who stay up late, it's got cool things going on. Throw in that kickass menu with plenty of vegetarian options, huge TVs for sports and one of the few actual stages in Santa Fe venue-dom, and it's definitely a must. Even better? There's often no cover.
Zephyr Community Arts Studio
1520 Center Drive, Ste. 2, facebook.com/zephyrmusicandart
Music venue, reading room, workshop space, art gallery—Zephyr Community Art Studio has grown to include so many cultural offerings it's hard to believe the people behind it are often working on a volunteer basis. The metal set recently joined the crew at Zephyr, adding a certain brutality (in a good way, though) among the singer-songwriters, painters, writing teachers, dancers, solo vocalists, experimental indie rockers and so on. All hail the glorious Southside warehouse, all hail. Most shows start around 8 pm.
Jean Cocteau Cinema
418 Montezuma Ave., 466-5528
One of the hallmarks of a cool arts town is the oft-beloved midnight movie. And though the Jean Cocteau Cinema takes the earlier bedtimes of Santa Feans into account by hosting its series at 10 pm, it's still exciting to have an arthouse theater that plays old horror movies, anime classics and other fun surprises for night owls. According to the theater, the staff picks the films on a rotating basis for the first and third Sundays of the month, and in case you somehow didn't know, the ol' JCC was resurrected by George RR Martin a few years back and has since grown into one of our most vital screens.
116 W San Francisco St.
No late-night list would be complete without the king of local dive bars, The Matador. And it's not about bands (they don't have 'em) or art shows (there's punk rock posters everywhere, end of list), it's about a strong drink served up affordably, a roster of DJs occasionally spinning country to metal and everything in between, and a staff of fiercely loyal barfolk who remember you even if you're not in all the time and who know you work hard and deserve a respite.