If You Don’t Know, Now You Know: Miami (Part 1)

by Alan Philips
02.11.2010

 

Money, Power, Fame, Sex – New York’s got the money, Washington D.C.’s got the power, L.A.’s got the fame and Miami’s got the sex. For better (my tan) or for worse (my liver), I’ve spent 18 days visiting Miami (currently still here) over the last two months. Miami has been battered by the poor economy and housing crisis, and has been plagued with rampant overdevelopment. You see, Miami was doing well, but like a fat man at a buffet, the city just couldn’t resist more. They got out of their comfort zone and started building mega-resorts like The Fontainebleau and The Gansevoort instead of traditional boutique hotels. Bigger is not always better, and now the banks are foreclosing on the properties, as they recently did at The Gansevoort Miami. To the average fellow, this means that the bank has allowed the current management company to continue operating the hotel for the foreseeable future, but in many cases the developer’s equity is completely wiped out and millions of dollars get flushed into the economic abyss. 

Surprisingly, despite this crisis, Miami is not depressing, depressed, or even remotely in a bad mood. Through adversity, Miami has divided into two factions. First, there is the classic Miami, a money-driven glitz and silicone-gilded mecca, which exists in mega-restaurants like STK at The Gansevoort and Mr. Chow at the new W Hotel. There is also an inspiringly authentic scene of food, drink and genuine Miami culture in places like the Design District’s Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Bayside hotels Mondrian and Standard, and nightlife experiences like Big Bounce at Florida Room or Bardot. The city and people have a Latin and European sensibility which makes trouble seem far away. They stroll down Lincoln Road, sipping espressos at Segafredo and buying custom Nike running jackets at Mr. R’s Sports, an awesome sneaker spot. Every time I am here I ask myself why I live in New York; but for some reason I keep returning. My only explanation is that I am either dumb or addicted to the grit and harsh realities of Manhattan. Like an episode of “Lost”, I am sure there is a duplicate version of me living in Miami, married to a beautiful Argentinean woman who loves my “machismo” and gringo family…

… But enough with the dreaming. As I write this I am fully rethinking my return to the snow. Today I will break down Miami nightlife, and next Tuesday we will follow with restaurants and hotels along with some info from Super Bowl weekend. Join me and explore the hottest spots for the 2010 season in the city of sex.

Nightclubs:

Miami nightlife on season is my favorite scene in the country. You have all of the excess of Vegas clubs with a very limited amount of riffraff. You see, Miami is really all about the locals, and the locals take their clubs very seriously. There are a couple of promoters in town, but they have basically been the same for the past 10+ years. There is Alan Roth and Tommy Pooch, Michael Copponi and crew, Roy Alpert, Paolo and Tatanka, Zach Bush and Erica Freshman, Status Miami, and Empire Events which is basically part of Opium Group. There is always a transient yet strong presence from schools like University of Miami, Lynn and FIU. These schools, along with modeling agencies and the proximity to South America, deliver an unreasonable amount of attractive women nightly. Beautiful young females mixed with older moneyed men, makes for an explosively opportunistic nightlife market. This past weekend, I watched a man spend $99,000 in four hours on jeroboams of Cristal, magnums of Grey Goose and tons of Patron. His waitress made a $20,000 tip, all for herself, no pooling with the other girls, in a single night’s work. Miami runs six months behind New York in terms of trends, so if bottle service died in New York, no one got the message here. 

LIV

The current king of clubs in Miami is LIV. It is raping and pillaging the marketplace because David Grutman and Brian Gordon are incredibly good at what they do and because a developer had a wet dream and chose to spend billions of dollars building Las Vegas around them. The club is absolutely spectacular in its size, scope, energy, and most of all, marketing. With that said, why in god’s name would I want to stay in a Vegas hotel in Miami? Staying at the Fontainebleau, is the equivalent of moving in with the cast MTV’s Jersey Shore, their families, and paying for them, by choice. The hotel is home to the best club in the city and some of the best restaurants in the city, Hakkasan, Blade, and Scarpetta but I avoid the rest of the hotel like the plague – it is against many of my core beliefs as a human being.

Opium Group – The Wall, Set, Mansion, Louis, New Mokai, and more

After LIV, there are two options: one of Opium Group’s many venues or Mynt. As much as LIV is dominating the club scene this year, Roman Jones and Opium Group have dominated the scene for the past decade. Roman and his partners have a hold on Miami Beach like medieval kings. They are partners with Nicola Siervo and I think Linley Edwards on The Wall, the second hottest club in Miami and climbing. They have the most beautiful waitresses I have ever seen dressed head to toe in Herve Ledger, tables made out of pure marble, and their namesake “walls” that change color throughout the night. 1Oak and Tao/Strategic Group hosted some killer events there this past weekend (Tao’s included taking over the entire W Hotel). Opium Group also owns Set, Mansion, Cameo (which they are redoing this summer), Mokai (which is being redone right now by Marc Lehmkuhl, formerly of Suite) and Louis (run by former New Yorker, Jeremy Spund) along with venues at the Hard Rock Casino and a few others, I am sure.  

Mynt

Mynt is blessed with the best location in Miami and some of the most loyal clientele as well. Over five years ago, Mynt began as Roberto Caan’s club with Nicola Siervo and once again, I believe, Linley Edwards. Roberto is a French-Tunisian and a very interesting man, to say the least. Last I heard, he was in Brazil or somehow involved with Opium Group’s Set, as his doorman Cedric runs the door there. For its first five years of operation, Mynt had a LIV-like hold on the high-end Europeans and New Yorkers in Miami. Romain Zago took over three years ago, and with his undying dedication to this club, has managed to maintain and expand business. I paid a visit to the club this past weekend and over New Years – the place is timeless and still has energy on par with the best clubs in the world.

Florida Room

For those people looking for less of a club and more of a lounge, the alternative is Florida Room. The place is run by Josh Wagner, an old friend who has developed the persona of a stylishly modern version of PT Barnum, overseeing an incredible array of live talent such as Jamie Foxx, Lenny Kravitz and The Roots. Josh has created a unique nightlife destination within a classic hotel: The Delano, Miami’s answer to The Waldorf Astoria. It was a bit too crowded during the Super Bowl, but what can you expect when you have Snoop Dogg and Wyclef performing in a room that holds less than 400 people.  Next time you’re in Miami, swing by Florida Room before midnight to take a gander at Lenny Kravitz’s design, hit the keys on the Lucite piano, and try mixologist Jon Lermayer’s incredible cocktails. It will be an authentic South Beach moment rarely found in such a densely packed tourist area.     

The Inside Scoop: Miami Nightlife

• The One Group and Roy Alpert just opened a branch of L.A. favorite, Coco de Ville, next to STK. It is a smaller boutique lounge that holds 200 people max. Nick Cohen, Ruckus and a few other notable DJs spun there this weekend. The key to success will be building energy in the room and establishing a loyal following, as Miami is not always keen on the smaller lounges.
• Jon B is building a Greenhouse at Gulfstream Park, 20 minutes north of Miami. He seems very excited about the project and in his usual infectious manner, passed the excitement on to me.  Gulfstream is a famous racetrack with a new casino complex that will include 20 bars and restaurants, along with a ton of high end retail. Some insiders are predicting that it will continue to pull customers north away from South Beach. This remains unseen, but as I said before Jon B could fill any place. Greenhouse is slated to open during Winter Music Conference.
• Mokai is being redone by the Opium Group and designed by their new in-house designer Marc Lehmkuhl, a good friend of mine and former owner of Suite & Snatch.
• There is a karaoke bar called Studio at The Shelborne Hotel which is open till around 5 a.m. most nights. It is the perfect place to hit after the clubs. In recent years I have seen celebs here, including the Olsen twins and Wilmer Valderrama.

The Weekly Line-Up: The Best Places and the Best Nights to Go

Monday: Mondrian
Tuesday: Coco de Ville, Rok Bar, Florida Room, Louis & Delano (before midnight)
Wednesday: LIV
Thursday: The Wall & Mynt
Friday: Set, LIV, Mynt
Saturday: LIV, The Wall, Florida Room – Come early, be prepared to spend and bring talent.
Sunday: Set, Sunday Brunch at Mondrian & The Standard (Pornographic Bingo & Pool Party)

If you’re reading this in the midst of a snowstorm in New York, now is the time to book your ticket to Miami, where an oasis of sensuality, sun and deliciousness awaits. This weekend is Presidents’ Weekend, the Food and Wine festival is at the end of February and Winter Music Conference is in March. There is always a reason not to go, but as I have learned, it is usually exaggerated in your head; new opportunities can always come from these adventures. Next Tuesday I will report on the hotels and restaurants to assist with those aspects of your trip.

See you next time at Cocktail Hour, where more often than not one drink turns into ten and no one knows where and when the night will end.

-AP


 

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