Building a Better Nightclub

Can the developers of a new superbar keep the dance floor packed?

As of this writing, Nocturnal doesn't resemble the lushly opulent and high-tech superclub that is scheduled to debut on March 19, two days before this year's Winter Music Conference begins. Just weeks before the grand opening, construction crews are still working around the clock. On a recent weekday, they were lining the interior of the three-story warehouse with dry wall and wood panels, the final step before painting. Ads had just gone out for an army of bartenders, cashiers, and security personnel, with some 150 positions to fill. Reportedly, there's been a lot of interest.

No surprise. Located at 50 NE Eleventh St. and bearing an $11 million price tag, Nocturnal is one of the most expensive and highly anticipated spectacles to hit Miami in years. And at 20,000 square feet and a capacity of 1500 people, Nocturnal is nearly as large as its next-door neighbor Space, which at 25,000 square feet is the city's biggest dance club.

It has taken nearly three years to complete Nocturnal, and the promotional hype preceding its debut has been in full swing for months. The marketing kit boasts that the nightclub will "set a new standard for the nightlife industry: style, substance, and service."

Club director Dade Sokoloff keeps the Nocturnal hype machine running
Jonathan Postal
Club director Dade Sokoloff keeps the Nocturnal hype machine running
Nocturnal is at 50 NE Eleventh St., next door to Space
Jonathan Postal
Nocturnal is at 50 NE Eleventh St., next door to Space

"This club is absolutely state of the art," said Dade Sokoloff, who has overseen Nocturnal's construction since the fall of 2003 and has just been given the new title of club director. "There is nothing going in here that's not the best you can get." The 41-year-old Sokoloff is himself a seasoned veteran of Miami's glittery twilight world. In 1987, he was one of Ocean Drive's first employees, assembling that lifestyle magazine's sales staff. And as co-owner of the Shadow Lounge from 1997 to 2001, he was one of the first (along with the management at Groovejet) to bring such international progressive house stars as Paul Oakenfold, Dave Ralph, and Sasha to South Beach.

Nocturnal will be a marvel from the moment you enter, Sokoloff boasted. The staircase approach to the entrance, which resembles a garage door, is nine feet wide. It can be fitted with a ramp that will allow vehicles to drive up and through the door -- ideal, he said, for auto companies looking for a venue to display new models.

The club will be defined by several themes, explained 33-year-old Denise Grant, in charge of Nocturnal's publicity and special events. Look for industrialized steel, Asian minimalism, richly textured bars and seating.

The ground floor's dance area --capacity 600 -- will be lined left and right by rows of six granite Romanesque columns. Beyond the columns, two identical bars will line the far walls -- those walls themselves covered in gray slate and floor-to-ceiling waterfalls.

As you walk farther into Nocturnal's depths, you'll find restrooms and clusters of furniture -- and that rarest and most precious of amenities: a café serving light snacks, hot and cold, to revelers who may be tired or inebriated. Dumbwaiters in a basement kitchen will ferry up orders to the serving staff. "You'll be able to come here, walk through, and get a croissant sandwich or a bowl of fruit at sunrise," said Sokoloff.

A glass staircase leads up to the second floor, which is partitioned into four distinct areas and will feature two VIP lounges, two DJ booths paneled in teak, and a catwalk, where patrons can look out over the dance floor below.

One of the DJs will be spinning for the downstairs area and much of the second floor; two doors separate one half of the second floor from the other, where the second DJ will reside. The third area, an "über VIP lounge," is encased in glass partitions and is swathed in powder blue and gray suede. The fourth is a very, very exclusive VIP lounge, nestled in a far corner and protected from prying eyes by a velvet curtain. Its interiors are laid out in similar dark velvet.

Finally, after walking up another flight of stairs, patrons will find a tented rooftop lounge that offers views of the Port of Miami. "You can see the most amazing sunrise," said Grant. "Full-immersion visuals" that offer 360-degree vistas of the bay will be projected onto the tent's interior walls. Grant called the ascension from the dark ground floor to the airy rooftop lounge an "elevation of the spirit."

Then there are Nocturnal's technical details. A $900,000 computer-controlled LED light system will shower up to 16 million color combinations over the club's surfaces. A Funktion One sound system incorporates between $700,000 and $800,000 in equipment. Even the suspended crystal ball will be unique, said Sokoloff. With a circumference of nine feet and custom-built for $30,000, it will be "the largest biggest crystal ball in the world."

Sounds good. Still, Nocturnal has taken an unusually long time to complete; nearly three years have passed since planning first got under way. The one constant is owner Glenn Kofman, a 29-year-old entrepreneur who's so successful, he says, that he hopes to take his telecommunications company public within the next few months.

How did someone so young become a multimillionaire in less than a decade? "I got bad grades in [public] high school," recalled Kofman, who grew up in Chicago. When his parents decided to send him to Marmion Abbey & Academy, a military academy, to gain some maturity, he knew better than to put up much of a fight. Today he counts his experience there as the foundation for his later successes. "[Military school] teaches you organization; it teaches you discipline," he said. "It teaches you a lot of things that help you become better at anything you do. It could be business, or it could be cooking an egg omelet." Nonetheless before his senior year he transferred back to a public high school, Glenbrook North. "[Marmion] is an all-boys school, so there wasn't a lot of social contact with girls," he explained, adding that he felt he wasn't learning enough social skills as a result. "It was unhealthy for me. I needed the daily contact."

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