Building a Better Nightclub

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

There were "a lot of obstacles" while building Nocturnal, Kofman acknowledged. "A bad contractor at the beginning, a bad designer at the beginning. Not necessarily bad publicity, but a lot of negative responses. Even people I know who were helping me were saying, öThis is too difficult.' öHow can you do this?' öThis is a tough project.' öYou should put your money somewhere else.' But I'm the kind of guy where, if I start something, I finish it."

On August 1, 2003, several months after Kofman split with his original partners, he hired Bob Jones as his consultant. The 34-year-old Jones was managing a steak-and-seafood restaurant in Fredericksburg, Virginia, when Hunter Group South, a consortium of nightclub owners, hired him in 1997 as operations manager for Salvation, a club at 1771 West Ave. in South Beach. Salvation was shuttered in 1999, but Jones moved on, first as operations manager for Level, then general manager for Space, and finally general manager for Rain.

Most club owners who purchase a building simply renovate the interior, but the old 50 NE Eleventh St. warehouse was built of wood, making it potentially unsafe for a rowdy crowd of a thousand dancers. So Kofman had devised a plan to make Nocturnal from scratch by completely demolishing the warehouse's insides, knocking down its back wall and part of its front wall, and destroying its rooftop and floor base, leaving nothing but a hollow frame.

Nocturnal is building a scenic rooftop lounge.
Jonathan Postal
Nocturnal is building a scenic rooftop lounge.
When Nocturnal opens in a less than a month, publicity director Denise Grant (shown) and general manager Bob Jones will be ready
Jonathan Postal
When Nocturnal opens in a less than a month, publicity director Denise Grant (shown) and general manager Bob Jones will be ready

When Jones joined Kofman's management team, the walls had been rebuilt. "The building was about ... only ten percent completed," he said. But other aspects of the construction process were driving costs over budget. "It was a really great project," he said. "But some of the pricing of things seemed out of line ... it seemed as if they were spending a little more money than was necessary." Three months after Kofman took him on as a consultant, Jones was named the new general manager; he subsequently recommended Sokoloff, whom he knew from the local nightlife scene.

Problems that emerged once construction restarted in January 2004 were minor. During September 2004, for example, Miami-Dade County announced hurricane warnings in anticipation of Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne. Even though the storms missed Miami, construction was suspended for nearly a month.

Then in early October, Sokoloff recalled, Telesco Associates, an award-winning contractor that had built Opium Garden and crobar, reported that it couldn't find enough concrete to continue. "Building materials can be a hassle like that," he said, adding that high demand for hurricane-protection materials caused a brief scarcity. "It's one of those things you don't even count on," he added. "You think that when you need concrete, you make a phone call and the concrete truck rolls up." The shortage delayed construction for two weeks.

Complicating matters was the fact that Nocturnal's staff had begun making arrangements to open by the end of October. When it became clear that wouldn't happen, a few announced performances were canceled. One show in particular, with DJ Craze and Felix da Housecat, had been booked three months in advance. "It was too late to cancel without screwing over the DJ and his agent," Sokoloff explained. Luckily, he managed to work out a last-minute production deal with the Opium Group for the two stars to perform at Opium Garden.

Jones compared the seemingly never-ending Nocturnal project to his old nightclub, Rain, which also took years to build. "They basically tore down everything but the front wall and started brand new -- and that's 12,000 square feet in a [one-story building]. It took them about two years from about the start of the project to the day they opened," he said. Then he added, laughing, "At the same time, they built the Empire State Building in thirteen months."

If location means everything, Nocturnal's residence in the growing Park West neighborhood may prove to be a problem. Can the Eleventh Street block sustain yet another superclub?

To Nocturnal's immediate left at 34 NE Eleventh St. is Space; until recently, another dance club at 90 NE Eleventh St., Club Envy, sat on its right. Meanwhile other neighborhood competition includes Players, the 30 NE Eleventh St. sports bar that has recently begun hosting music events, too; and a strip joint at 29 NE Eleventh St., Gold Rush Miami.

Nocturnal's main competition, however, will be Space. An internationally recognized emporium for progressive house and trance fans, Space overshadowed the struggling Club Envy until the latter announced it was closing its doors. Nocturnal probably can't compete with Space, either, so it will have to present a viable alternative.

Sokoloff predicted that Nocturnal will not only be a place to dance, but a technological and aesthetic experience that will dazzle everyone, from people looking for a good time to discerning music aficionados. "What we don't want to do is compete with Space musically," said Sokoloff.

In contrast to Space, which caters to "true" electronic music fans who want to see the most popular DJs in the world (Tisto, Paul Van Dyk, Deep Dish), Sokoloff said that Nocturnal will feature lesser-known but critically acclaimed artists, such as Armand Van Helden and Felix da Housecat. Its residents include techno maven DJ Strike, house DJ Edgar V, and turntables guru DJ Craze. The rooftop lounge will feature performers enlisted by deep house/soul promoters Aquabooty (Joe Budious and Tomas Ceddia).

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