The Miami Nightlife Battle for Attention: Downtown Miami vs. South Beach

by Anthony Henriquez
06.18.2010

A war has been waging between the cities of South Beach and downtown Miami for decades now. No need to worry, this war has nothing to do with violence and everything to do with music. Please leave your weapons at home for this one.

In a constant battle to see who can attract more party-goers, both have been successful in accomplishing their goals of throwing praise-worthy parties. Downtown Miami, or DWNTWN Miami (as it’s currently being promoted), has a firm stance in the nightlife sector, housing publicly acclaimed venues: Space, Grand Central, The Vagabond, Grass Lounge and Awarehouse. The venues in and around DWNTWN Miami are known for having little to no cover charges, lenient dress requirements, easy parking and affordable alcohol. The spacious grounds of Grand Central and Awarehouse allow for these venues to lend themselves to events and mini concerts; therefore, giving them an upper hand in the versatility of their space.

Geared towards more of a hipster crowd with a laid back attitude, the downtown area still expands its reach to a crayon-box-type atmosphere, ranging from the t-shirt and jeans kind of guy to the more polished and dapper man. The music of choice for these nightclubs is typically house, techno and electronic with a touch of mash-ups. This hotspot is happening, and the lines are there to prove it.

On the other hand, South Beach is home to the VIP clubs, boutique clubs, hotel bars and pop-up bars. Nightclubs on the beach, like Mansion and Cameo, tend to incorporate more VIP areas than the downtown area but, in turn, offer less open space; the reason being that pricey hotels on the beach attract major money.

In South Beach it’s all about “the look” you portray, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  The venues in this area typically enforce a strict dress code, where men are encouraged to wear a collared shirt (polo or button down) and women usually sport a dress or pants and a dressy top. Do expect to pay a bit more when trying to park and consume alcohol, as an outing in SoBe is sure to do more damage to your wallet than a drunken night at a strip club; then again that all depends on the kind of spender you are. 

The South Beach venues are likely to play mainstream music, rock classics and mixes that would mainly appeal to a broad audience. For those who like to treat themselves to a meal after a long night out, South Beach offers a variety of food joints that are just walking distance from the clubs—this is a big plus.

DWNTWN Miami and South Beach are like polar-opposite, sibling rivals.

But where they compare the most are in their talent booking. We’ve seen names like Oscar G., Erick Morillo and Steve Angello play both downtown Miami and South Beach, so at times there is that struggle for the average nightlife fan to decide whether he’ll play it safe and stick to downtown or go all out and shell out a few more bones for the SoBe experience. As time goes by we’ve seen more and more of this, but in the end, downtown ends up getting a majority of the true music heads, while South Beach attracts the Top 40 and commercial crowd that are usually musically guided by the radio and what pops up first on iTunes.

So, which one will you choose? We’re on the fence with this one. Regardless, it’s a win-win situation for us all. We could be living somewhere in North Dakota instead.

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