Nov. 28, 2007 -- It's not the kind of place you'd want your teenage daughter to party at.
Two-and-a-half years after Natalee Holloway was last seen leaving the Aruban restaurant and nightclub Carlos 'N Charlie's, the island hot spot is still thriving, drawing capacity crowds of young people into a throbbing Bacchanalia of drinking, dancing and, in some cases, seemingly contagious sexual promiscuity.
"This place is on fire,'' Kevin Nisvet, 21, told an ABC News producer who visited the club last weekend at about 1 a.m., the approximate time Holloway was seen leaving the club with Joran van der Sloot and Satish and Deepak Kalpoe, the three men rearrested last week for suspicion of involvement in her May 2005 disappearance.
Van der Sloot has told ABC News that, after leaving the club, he, Holloway and the Kalpoe brothers went first to a lighthouse and later, to a secluded beach, where, he said, the pair became amorous. Van der Sloot claims he left a visibly intoxicated Holloway on that beach and went home. She hasn't been seen since, despite a massive search of the island and its surrounding waters.
On a recent night outside the club, a short line of young, animated patrons waited to pass through a metal detector and into the thick of a throng of young men and women, dancing enthusiastically to party rock classics — like AC/DC's "Back in Black,'' George Thorogood's thundering blues classic "Bad to the Bone '' and the 1982 Survivor hit, "Eye of the Tiger,'' the theme to the movie "Rocky III" — blasting from giant speakers at ear-splitting volume.
Nisvet, an island native, said that on weekends the club is "always full. ... It has girls, it has great music. It's the only club that has so much drinking and dancing."
Not surprisingly, the free-for-all atmosphere of hard drinking and pump-you-up rock anthems seemed to breed a remarkable degree of sexual abandon in some of the young customers.
Several young female revelers told ABC News that they are frequently groped by young men on the dance floor at the club.
Jessica Maren, 18, said she didn't like being groped but that she felt it was simply part of the enticing, sexually charged club experience.
"It's OK,'' she said with a shrug when she was asked if she resented the unsolicited hands on her body. "It doesn't really bother me."
Inside, in a corner of the bar beside a long wooden stage, two attractive blond women in tiny, skintight shorts, drew considerable attention as they gyrated to the music, arms around one another's necks, French kissing and swaying back and forth with the kind of abandon that the late hour, pulsating music and sexual energy can command. Close by, several men surrounded them, wide-eyed and clearly excited.
Up on stage, four "volunteers" — each representing a different country, including Venezuela, the Netherlands and the United States — held the spotlight as they competed with one another to see who could consume a 28-ounce "yard" glass of beer the fastest. A master of ceremonies from the club, wielding a microphone, urged the crowd to cheer on the respective contestants.
As the crowd on the dance floor chanted, "Chug, chug, chug!" the Venezuelan man, beer dripping down his cheeks, stepped forward, triumphant and a little blue in the face, empty yard glass raised in the air, wearing the kind of goofy grin unique to intoxicated young men of his age.
The young American man, who said he was from Massachusetts, appeared to be close to vomiting when he finished his drink moments later but valiantly held his stomach and descended the stage into an enthusiastic crowd of hometown buddies.
While bouncers at the door outside the club seemed to vigilantly check IDs, two very young-looking women, who appeared to be no older that 14, were observed dancing provocatively on a wooden pedestal next to a giant pole adorned with old, vanity license plates with amusing slogans. The club allows 18-year-olds in, and younger people, if they are accompanied by their parents.
Around 2 a.m., a fistfight broke out toward the back of the club, drawing many of the revelers' attention. Bouncers and club security rushed to the back to break up the melee. As they did, an older woman approached the two youngish girls dancing near the pole, and grabbed them by the hand, urgently leading them out the door.
An ABC News producer followed the trio out the door and down the street, catching up with the youngest-looking woman as she was being led into a white van. She declined to give her name, but when asked her age, she smiled and seemed to wink and said, "18." Then she laughed out loud and entered the van.
ABC News returned to Carlos 'N Charlie's the following day to seek an interview with the club manager, who employees there identified as Alberto Levy. A waiter asked about the nature of the inquiry, and upon learning that the network was seeking an interview, spoke to a man in a back office and returned to say that Levy was off the island, and that it was unclear when he would return. Levy didn't respond to messages left for him at the bar.
Carlos 'N Charlie's is a chain of more than 100 restaurant and clubs in Mexico, Spain, Brazil and the United States, according to the company's Web site. The first one was founded in Mexico City in 1968 by Carlos Anderson, an ambitious restaurateur who emphasized customer service and a friendly staff. Over time, with the help of friends Charlie Skipsey, Chuy Juearez and other friends, the group expanded internationally.
The restaurant/club has never been accused or implicated in any way with Holloway's disappearance. Local Arubans and regularly-visiting tourists call it the most exciting, inviting night spot on Aruba.