domingo, abril 21, 2024

Where do Rock Stars Eat? The Story of Cabo Wabo and the Legendary Jorge Viaña

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The story of Cabo Wabo begins with Keith Richards and Jorge Viaña passing a bottle of tequila back and forth while sitting on the curb at the only gas station in Cabo San Lucas. The year was 1983, and there were cattle on the dirt roads. Jorge worked two jobs: receptionist by day at the Twin Dolphin Hotel and as a waiter at Alfonso’s, a restaurant on Medano Beach, by night. Although Cabo was a small and quiet town, the air buzzed with the feeling of endless possibilities. It was a blank canvas and Jorge, unknowingly, was holding a paintbrush. 

How does one find themselves having a drink with one of the biggest rock stars in the world? It seems as though serendipity follows Jorge wherever he goes, with his iconic black hair and the top British rock bands as the soundtrack to his life. He was a man in his late twenties dreaming of opening his own bar. Any other person could have bumped into Keith Richards. Perhaps they would have asked for an autograph or a picture and bragged about it to friends. However, Jorge’s encounter with the Rolling Stones’ lead guitarist turned into an opportunity, and the next day, he was helping organize Keith’s bachelor party. 

Before Jorge knew it, he was arranging to have the only piano in town brought to Alfonso’s for the festivities. It’s hard to imagine what Medano Beach looked like back in the eighties, before all the restaurants, booty shaking contests, and vendors. It’s even harder to imagine Mick Jagger arriving at his bandmate’s bachelor bash, His toes in our sand. He and Keith performing at what was surely one heck of a party. But this is only one of many, many surreal moments in Jorge’s life. 

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Keith Richards and Patti Hansen’s wedding caught the media’s attention in the US. Their small celebration in an unknown town in Baja ended up in People Magazine, which later ended up in Sammy Hagar’s hands. What’s Cabo? Where’s Cabo? He had to find out! It was only a matter of time before the lead vocalist of Van Halen arrived at the lobby of the Twin Dolphin hotel with his wife and baby son in tow. 

As a receptionist in the most popular hotel among celebrities, Jorge was used to checking in famous people. Athletes, models, actors, and musicians paraded around the lobby. Stars have always had their eyes on Cabo, even before the roads were paved. But Sammy Hagar wasn’t a regular celebrity, and Jorge wasn’t a regular receptionist. These two were destined to meet. So, when Sammy needed a ride to the supermarket to buy diapers for his son Andrew, who was he to ask? The guy with the iconic black hair and rock star look, of course. 

After a diaper run and a couple of drinks, the pair said goodbye because Jorge had to go get changed for his shift at the restaurant. “Why do you have two jobs?” Sammy asked. Jorge’s answer sealed his fate forever, proving that it takes more than just serendipity to make magical things happen- it takes dreaming and a lot of hard work. “Because I’m saving up to open a bar,” Jorge replied. And with that, like many other visitors, Sammy left Cabo with a sense of wanting more.

Fast forward a couple of months later. The phone rang in the Viaña household. His wife at the time didn’t speak English, which is why she hung up on some gringo loco who was asking for her husband. You can imagine who that was! After a couple more tries, Sammy had to try a different method to reach Jorge. He hired a messenger to deliver a package to Cabo San Lucas. 

After a few days, Jorge received a mysterious box. Inside was an answering machine with a note from Sammy that said. “Jorge, hook this up – Sammy.” Once they finally got in touch, Sammy invited Jorge and his family to a Van Halen concert in San Diego, California. Passports were faxed, plane tickets were bought, and the same messenger that delivered Sammy’s package led the way for Jorge and his family to the Sports Arena. His life was about to change. The limo, the music, the screaming fans, and meeting Eddie and Alex Van Halen were only some of the highlights of the night. When the show was over, Jorge found himself backstage with the band. Some banter and a few drinks later, Sammy Hagar announced he was opening a bar in Cabo San Lucas- and that he was doing it with Jorge! History was made. 

Sammy loved Cabo and wanted a small bar with a stage to perform whenever he was in town, suspecting other musicians would want to play there, too. Jorge knew Cabo and was willing to work hard to make things happen. They spoke each other’s language because rock stars understand each other. A brand that would not only shape gringo-choyero culture, but also change the history of Cabo was born. 

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What is gringo-choyero culture? There’s a very specific type of American/Canadian person that moves here. The ones that are looking to trade their snow boots for flip-flops and yearn for a slow-paced life.  However, only the adventurous set their eyes on Cabo. It was true back then of Jorge, who is originally from Bolivia. It was true of Sammy, when he decided to launch a business in an unknown land. And it is true about foreigners who come to Cabo searching for new experiences and who care about assimilating the culture. Cabo brings out our true selves, for better or for worse, and it brought out the best in Jorge. Life handed him lemons and he made this town’s most iconic margarita, also known as the Waborita. 

Cabo Wabo’s opening night received worldwide press coverage. Van Halen performed, and it was broadcasted on MTV. Sammy wanted a monster of an opening, and a monster of an opening he had. From that star-studded event, to surprise concerts with world-renowned musicians, to serving thousands of tourists a year, Jorge has been the man behind the scenes, running Cabo’s most iconic restaurant-bar. As the years have gone by and Cabo has grown into the destination it is today, so have the lines to get a table in Cabo Wabo. Its walls have witnessed incredible moments, such as Alice Cooper’s live recording concert, which is one of Jorge’s favorite memories. It is the place where rock stars eat. 

A lot has changed since the doors of Cabo Wabo first opened in 1990. Streets have been paved, music trends have come and gone, and you might find a gray hair or two on these rock stars’ heads. But the important things have stayed the same. When you put your whole heart into what you do, you’re halfway there. These values, and Sammy’s relentless display of love for our destination and for Cabo Wabo on so many stages around the world, are what have made it an institution.

Jorge still listens to the same playlist he did when he bumped into Keith Richards. His Chuck Taylor’s have “Cabo Wabo” embroidered on them, and he’s as cool as he’s ever been. If you pay attention, even the smallest of details say a lot about who a person is. Jorge is a family man who surrounds himself with his loved ones. His wife Patty was present when we had his picture taken for the cover of this magazine, and she took his sunglasses to wipe them clean. Even his sons Jorge, age 17, and Ozzy, age 15, help out when the restaurant gets really busy. Some members of his staff have been with him since day one. He’s a great boss. Cabo Wabo is the most popular it’s ever been, a must on every visitor’s bucket list, and the menu is to die for. He knows his food. He’s lived through the most disastrous hurricanes in the history of Cabo and always lends a helping hand to the community, donating food and supplies. He’s kind. The walls of his office are filled with memories with interesting personalities, some of whom he’s seen perform on the stage he dreamed of when he was young. Jorge Viaña is a rock star. 

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