One patron at Valentino's who does still go downtown is Shane Clark, a 25-year-old building manager from Cottage Grove. But he continues to visit Valentino's at least once a month. "I like to switch it up, and I hit Myth, and Spin downtown, but this is my favorite," he says. "It's in my hood." But Clark echoes some of Ryan's criticisms about downtown. "It's easier to hang out here for all kinds of people of color," he tells me. "Downtown has tension—some of it's racial, some of it's with the cops, some of it's just the hassle. Out here, especially this place, nobody goes for none of that."
Noy Werst, a 30-year-old Laotian from Eagan, says she frequents the club two or three times a month. "This is where I can be me," she says. "It's not like downtown, where you feel like you have to audition to be in a place."
At the end of the night, I speak to an interracial couple who've been cuddling on one of the couches in the lounge downstairs. She's Desiree Cobb, 38, and says she's African American and French. He's Jay Masanz, 31, a self-described German Hispanic. They both live nearby, and have their own reasons for coming to Valentino's. But tonight they've met each other for the first time. Desiree is clear about why she's a regular out in the 'burbs. When she first came here 13 years ago from Racine, Wisconsin, she felt like she had "to be more black, or less black, or something."
Here in the outskirts, she doesn't feel the same kind of pressure. "I used to go downtown, but now these places make it so none of that matters," she says, sitting on Masanz's lap. "It's about time the Twin Cities were like this. People better realize it, because this is how it's going to be."