Nightlife on the Edge

There's something distinctly different about downtown Miami's Club Space. Maybe it's that party-animal cop who's beating the crap out of a defenseless customer.

A supercharged promotional drive has been the platform from which Tettamanti and Guerra have launched their gimmicks. Club Space sales reps regularly canvass businesses from Palm Beach to Kendall, crying out the virtues of partying downtown amid the warehouses and winos. At the end of their day, the reps provide their supervisors with business cards they've collected -- proof of contact. Tettamanti proudly leaned over and pulled opened a file drawer crammed with stack upon stack of the cards, bound in rubber bands. “We're doing more business than the competition ever expected,” he boasted. And the promotional fever hasn't been confined to the business office. In the men's bathroom, attendant Josh Alency said he has pitched the club to his friends in Fort Lauderdale, where he lives. And, he insisted, they are coming.

Puig would not discuss revenue figures, but with a $20 cover charge and up to 3000 people jamming the place at peak capacity, billowing profits are a no-brainer. And considering that he and Nuñez fork over only about one-tenth the rent they would be paying on South Beach, there's little doubt they're raking it in.

A kinder, gentler experience at the velvet rope, and the come-one-come-all pitch may pack the rooms and fill the cash registers, but there are liabilities as well. The grand opener proved that point. Around 2:30 a.m. a half-dozen beefy, testosterone-enfused alpha males -- the kind you might see fewer of, say, on gay night -- burst from the hip-hop room on to the Latin patio. To a soundtrack of vapid merengue, they tumbled ahead, heads down and fists pumping, scattering dance-floor couples amid the mayhem.

At the center of the fray, a man was immobilized in a headlock as two others mercilessly pounded him in the ribs. Club security soon descended upon the scene. A bouncer loudly demanded that everyone involved in the fight be thrown out. Just then one of the brawlers, who had viciously pummeled the headlock victim and then took a swing at a club employee, reached into his pocket and pulled out a leather billfold, which he flipped open to reveal a badge. “I'm a cop!” he yelled. “I'm a cop!”

The officer, tall and thick, quickly made his way to the nearest bathroom, where he was surrounded by five bouncers. Broken gold chain dangling from his neck, black hair tousled, silky polo shirt torn at the collar, the cop asked to be allowed to stay. But an angry employee shot back: “You took a swing at me! I want you the fuck outta here!” After a tense standoff, the bouncers walked away in a huff, cursing under their breath.

Club Space operations manager Marcus Westricher was tending to the front door when he learned of the incident and its outcome. “That's not the way things work around here,” he uttered ominously. Flashlight held high above him, he made an about-face and disappeared like a coal miner into the dark recesses of the club, in search of a bad cop.

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