Julio Carrillo, a 52-year-old screenwriter, said in years past he and his partner went out less because state-run bars tended to be dreary joints with deafening music and lousy service.
Moreover, displays of personal wealth could be seen as ostentatious and attract questions about where the money came from. So many Cubans with means tended to stay in and host private get-togethers.
However, as islanders increasingly get their hands on nice things, there is less stigma attached to the good life.
“It used to be we’d go to someone’s house. There’s a dinner or a party and I bring a bottle, and it stays low profile, you know?” Carrillo said.
There are also privately run clubs that cater to the young offspring of Cubans with wealth and connections: places like Sangri La, an overly air-conditioned basement nightclub in the tony Miramar District.
Some patrons say they sometimes see the scions of Cuba’s most powerful political clans living it up in raucous joints like these, as plainclothes state security agents hang around outside.
The scene is a dramatic change from just a few years ago, when most Cubans were shooed away from hotels such as the Habana Libre or Melia Cohiba, both home to expensive nightclubs.
However, it is still a small segment of the population and a far cry from the scene along the Malecon seafront boulevard where working-class Cubans gather by the thousands on weekends to sip from US$0.90 cardboard boxes of rum.