Restaurant rocking for opening day |

Restaurant rocking for opening day

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune Bartender Kimberly Paulson mixes the house drink, "Red Rocker," before a private party Thursday.

Don’t blame the tequila Saturday. That banging in your head from Friday’s party may be due to the subwoofers.

Beginning today at 11 a.m., Harrah’s Lake Tahoe is throwing a Red Rocker party-extraordinaire at Harveys’ former El Vaquero site for the grand opening of Cabo Wabo Cantina, singer and guitarist Sammy Hagar’s restaurant and bar named after the nightclub in the famed Mexican town. The original club opened in 1990.

This is Hagar’s first Cabo Wabo club in the United States – with pending negotiations in St. Louis, Las Vegas, San Diego and Orlando.

“Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places in the world. That was a nice fit. It’s a great market. It’s such a tourist destination. People come there and look for good entertainment,” Cabo Wabo Enterprises President Barry Augus said from his Oakland home.

And that’s what organizers expect partygoers will get. Hagar – a friend of Harrah’s Senior Vice President of Operations of Northern Nevada Don Marrandino – will show up to play with The Waboritas: Vic Johnson on guitar, Mona Gnader on bass and David Lauser on drums. Lauser is an old childhood friend of Hagar, who grew up in Fontana, Calif.

Hagar, 56, has made a business out of building relationships.

In the height of the lead singer’s Van Halen days, Hagar visited Cabo San Lucas when it was a sleepy fishing village more than 15 years ago.

He negotiated a deal with the Amatitan family, a Mexican tequila maker, in the fields of Jalisco where Blue Weber agave is grown. Estimates show it takes six to eight kilos of agave plant to make one liter of Blue Weber tequila.

Cabo Wabo tequila, its name derived from Hagar’s observation of a guy stumbling in the street, is made from pure agave. Therefore, hangovers are fewer and farther between, Augus said.

“Typically people get hangovers with low-grade ‘mixto’ tequila,” he said. “Some believe pure tequila can be a hallucinogen. It’s a different kind of alcohol that Mexicans have been drinking for thousands of years.”

One of three types, Cabo Wabo Reposado is barrel-aged in oak casks for four to six months. Like wine, the aging process translates into more flavor and a smooth texture, Augus said. The large desert plant is baked in wood-fired adobe ovens and distilled.

Because Hagar has become so involved in the tequila-making process, Augus said the singer refers to the Cabo Wabo brand with the same excitement as his music career. Hagar and Marrandino refer to the brand as “a way of life.”

“Cabo Wabo is a key component of our continuing strategy to create more excitement, more attractions and a broader appeal to Tahoe. We are looking forward to a long and successful journey with Sammy,” Marandino said.

The party continues across the street, where Heavenly Mountain Resort reopens with 3 feet at the summit for two days of skiing Saturday and Sunday. The fiesta features a large pond-skimming exhibition on the first day at the gondola end point.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 541-3880 or via e-mail at

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