The old school cantina, owned by Danny Delgado—Hi-Tones, La Botanica, Phantom Room, Faust Tavern—along with four other partners, has since become quite the popular destination for no frills drinks, quality patio time, and (especially) live music.
In a manner that seems to transfer the physics truism that energy cannot be destroyed to the cultural realm, The Squeezebox is more than just a win for its owners and for the St Mary’s strip in general. It’s a win for all who knew, loved, and frequented Saluté International Bar (formerly at 2801 N St Mary’s St), which, after some 25 years as a bastion of Tejan@ culture, closed up shop for good back in July of 2012.
Saluté, whose raw, puro San Anto energy seems to have been absorbed by The Squeezebox, was a place where live Tejano music reigned supreme—quite literally, in the sense that performing bands often occupied fully half of the space in the tiny cantina, leaving devout, sweaty patrons to cram into what space remained. (How’s that for a squeezebox?) Over the years since its closing, many have lamented its absence and celebrated its legacy—and the life/legacy of its beloved, longtime owner Azeneth Dominguez—in a variety of ways. Now, four years later, The Squeezebox is doing one hell of a job filling that void.
Jason Saldana, perhaps better known as DJ El Westside Soundsystem, remembers Saluté as a place where he could study his chosen niche. "I used to go to Saluté back in the day to see Steve Jordan, Sauce Gonzales and the Westside Horns, and other old school SA legends," Saldana told the Current. "I was collecting their records back then and would hit up all the spots in town where I could find the Westside Sound."
Speaking directly to the connection between the two venues, Saldana said that "The Squeezebox has the same big heart that Saluté had." And, after commenting on how two of The Squeezbox's owners, Delgado and Aaron Peña "grew up in Saluté," Saldana praised its billing thus far. He went on to add that he sees "The Squeezebox as becoming a destination venue for fans of all types of roots music visiting the city who want to hear some authentic sounds from San Antonio."
To be sure, The Squeezebox is no copy of Saluté. Indeed, no one could ever hope to duplicate a place that depended so much on the loyalty of its following and on a set of unmatchable intangibles. Plus, The Squeezebox’s musical focus has been, from the outset, broader in scope, booking old school rock ‘n’ rollers, soul, jazz, and blues acts, as well as Tejano, conjunto, and other regional specialties.
But, in decor, mood, and (quite often) in terms of live music offerings, The Squeezebox has certainly filled some of that Saluté-sized hole in the heart of the Strip.