SoBe 101: How to Get Past the Velvet Rope
BY: Michelle F. Solomon

SoBe's club scene is the place to see and be seen, but it's a dog-eat-dog world out there. If you're fixin' to go partying on a Friday night in South Beach, you better get your groove on because it takes more than just a pretty face to get you past the velvet ropes.

One of Queen Latifah's favorite haunts is Mokaï, Jamie Foxx partied the night away at Mansion while in town filming "Miami Vice," and funnyman Will Ferrell has been known to wind down at Privé. But if you have the entourage but not the celebrity pull, how do you get to enjoy the same privileges of the jet set?

"There are a few tricks to making it past the velvet ropes," says Vanessa Menkes, vice president of the Opium Group, the company behind SoBe's premier haunts including Mansion, SET, Privé and Opium Garden.

"The first and most important one is a great attitude," says Menkes. The doorman's job ("we don't refer to them as bouncers," informs the nightlife expert) is to ensure that the club has a great vibe. "He's looking for people who are going to add that aspect to the party. A great smile, friendly demeanor, and positive disposition are a great place to start. No one wants to accommodate a pushy patron or a grump," she confides.

Insider's tip: Making it in to one of the Opium Group's clubs should be high on the priority list. Opium is responsible for putting South Beach nightlife on the map and you're almost guaranteed to rub elbows with a celebrity.

Next, look like you should be part of the scene. If big hair and Birkenstocks are your usual attire, better think twice before heading out to Collins Avenue or Lincoln Road. And guys, leave the sports gear at home. You won't make it in to a club any quicker because you have Shaq's name on the back of a basketball jersey.

"Miami nightlife is very trendy and upscale and sometimes tourists make the mistake of bringing the relaxed beach vibe to the clubs, which doesn’t bode well for easy entrance," advises Menkes.

Not sure what to wear? Head out to one of the shops at Lincoln Road Mall and get some advice. The customer reps at the stores know what works and what doesn't for nightlife in South Beach.

So, what if you've exhausted all techniques, you look fierce, you're polite, you flash a great smile and you've got money in your pocket and still you spend most of the evening watching others gain entrance while you stand like a wallflower?

There are companies in Miami that have made it their business to get you into the clubs. Kevin McGovern, director of media and development for SoBeVIPs, says sometimes using his hosted entry service is your best bet to be guaranteed access into the hotspot of your choice. Large groups and especially groups of guys find the service invaluable. It's no secret on South Beach that a pack of girls will gain entry into a club five times faster than a group of guys on a weekend night.

McGovern's company handles everything ahead of time from making a table reservation at the club (a "must," he says) to setting up the bottle service (which can run you up to $1800 if you book it on your own) to gaining you a walk through the VIP entrance.

"We have an edge because we have a relationship with the clubs. We make sure you get in and you get taken care of," says McGovern. With his service, a host from SoBeVIPs meets you and your group at the door, escorts you in through the VIP entrance, gets you seated, makes sure the drinks you've ordered are secured, takes care of your transactions, then heads out.

Covers generally run from $20 up at a club and McGovern's per person hosted entry fee runs about $49 per person, which he says is worth the extra cash for guaranteed entrance and a table reservation

Table reservations should be a definite whether you've enlisted a hosted entry service or are going it on your own. Those in the know suggest this as a surefire way to gain entry.

"Make a table reservation in advance. That way, you can reserve a table to sit
comfortably and guarantee yourself quick entrance," says Menkes.

Remember, tables require bottle service, so be prepared to shell out some cash. Clubs many times require a guaranteed purchase of between 6 and 7 bottles. Overall, SoBe isn't cheap. A cocktail can cost anywhere between $12 and $20 a piece and cover charges are usually $20.

"Whether you use our service or not, be prepared to spend money. Grease a palm at the door or tip the right people on the way in. The door guy may be a bagger at Publix during the day, but there he's God. He will keep you out there all night," says McGovern.

So is all this prep work and jockeying worth it just to get in to one of SoBe's hot, trendy clubs? For sure.

"There's nothing on earth like partying in Miami," says Menkes.